The stage is set for the biggest Mizzou football game in years.
The Tigers went on the road and took care of business, beating Ole Miss 24-10 on Saturday night to move one step closer to a berth in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 7 in Atlanta.
The only thing standing in Mizzou’s way now is a game against Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
“It’s a huge game,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “We’re going to play against the best player in college football. … This is a real important game. It’s in the Zou. Our fans will be going crazy, which is awesome. It’s a championship game. This is what you want. We have a share of the championship now. This is what you do it for. This is fun. It’s intense. It’s exciting. This is what you do. Our players will be excited about getting out there and playing.”
Mizzou is now 10-1 overall and 6-1 in the SEC, which clinches a share of the East Division title with South Carolina (9-2, 6-2) but doesn’t guarantee a trip to Atlanta because of the head-to-head loss to the Gamecocks. The Tigers need to beat Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3), which is coming off a 34-10 loss at LSU on Saturday night.
Pinkel’s squad is 10-1 for the first time since 2007. That group went 11-1 in the regular season, including a win over rival Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium to clinch the Big 12 North Division title, before losing to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game in San Antonio.
The 2013 Tigers have an opportunity to do something special over the next two weeks. A win against Texas A&M would give Mizzou a chance to face either top-ranked Alabama or No. 4 Auburn in the SEC championship game — in the team’s second year in the conference.
It won’t be easy, though.
The Aggies come in ranking sixth among FBS schools in points per game (45.6) and passing yards per game (365.1). Manziel, who still has a chance to win another Heisman Trophy, has accounted for 4,202 total yards and 40 touchdowns this season.
TIGERS MOVE UP IN RANKINGS
Mizzou moves up three spots when the BCS standings were released on Sunday.
The Tigers benefited from Baylor and Oregon both losing Saturday and then jumped ahead of Clemson, which is No. 6. Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State remain in the top three spots, respectively, with Auburn moving up from sixth to fourth.
The computer rankings used to determine the BCS standings have Pinkel’s squad with an average position of fifth, as high as fourth and as low as 10th.
Missouri moved up from eighth to fifth in the Associated Press Top 25 and bumped up from eighth to sixth in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll.
BRANTLEY EARNS HONOR
Defensive tackle Harold Brantley was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday.
Brantley, a redshirt freshman from Hershey, Pa., made two big plays in the win at Ole Miss. He blocked a 23-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and then ran for 26 yards on a fake punt in the third quarter.
Brantley’s honor is the 11th SEC weekly award for the Tigers this season. He is the fourth Mizzou defensive lineman to be honored, joining Michael Sam, Markus Golden and Kony Ealy.
VOLLEYBALL TEAM CELEBRATES TITLE
The Missouri volleyball team captured the school’s first SEC championship on Friday when it swept Mississippi State in front of a school-record 7,879 fans at the Hearnes Center.
“This is obviously pretty special and it is a really hard thing to do — to win a regular-season conference championship,” Tigers coach Wayne Kreklow said. “I think this all started last spring when the team, led my Molly (Kreklow) and Lisa (Henning), really committed themselves to doing this. There was a lot of work in the summer, in the spring, and it is great for this to pay off. To be the first SEC champion at Mizzou is really special, but this is just one of our goals for the year.”
Missouri, which moved up to No. 4 in the rankings last week, then swept No. 16 Kentucky on Sunday in Lexington to improve to 33-0 overall and 17-0 in SEC play. The Tigers conclude the regular season with a match against Arkansas on Wednesday at Hearnes Center.
The team will honor its two seniors and driving forces, Henning and Kreklow, on Wednesday. Both four-year starters, Henning is an outside hitter from Blue Springs, Mo., and Kreklow is a setter from Delano, Minn.
BASKETBALL SQUADS UNDEFEATED
The Missouri men’s and women’s basketball teams are both off to strong starts.
The men are 4-0 going into their Monday night matchup against visiting IUPUI — the second game of the Las Vegas Invitational and the final game with Tim Fuller serving as coach in Frank Haith’s absence.
The Tigers then move on quickly to Las Vegas to continue the Invitational with games against Northwestern and Nevada on Thursday and Friday.
Mizzou has been led by its backcourt, as expected. Jabari Brown and Jordan “Ninja Blender” Clarkson are both averaging 18 points per game, with Earnest Ross contributing 13 points per contest.
The Tigers have had closer-than-expected games against Southern Illinois, Hawaii and Gardner-Webb. All three contests were within two points at halftime before Missouri pulled away, slightly, in the second half.
You would think Northwestern (3-2) and Nevada (3-3) would be tougher tests, but not necessarily. Northwestern lost to Illinois State and beat IUPUI (1-4) by just two points, and Nevada has lost to Pacific, Cal State Bakersfield and Morehead State.
Fuller and Haith will need to continue to work on getting post players Johnathan Williams III, Ryan Rosburg and Tony Criswell more involved offensively against undersized opposing front lines.
The Mizzou women improved to 5-0 with a 77-74 win at Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.
The Tigers, who got 27 points from junior guard Morgan Eye and 17 rebounds from freshman forward Jordan Frericks, had to rally from a 14-point deficit to earn the victory.
Bri Kulas, a senior forward from Shawnee Mission, Kan., was named SEC co-player of the week on Monday after averaging 21.5 points in two games. She leads the team at 16.2 points per game.
The Mizzou women return to action Tuesday night against UMKC at Mizzou Arena.