After years of bowl snubs in the Big 12, Missouri was thrilled Sunday to be selected for the Citrus Bowl.
The No. 16 Tigers, 10-3, will play Minnesota, 8-4, at noon Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla., at the newly renovated Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Based on the SEC’s bowl hierarchy, the Citrus Bowl had its choice of the remaining SEC teams once Alabama, which beat Missouri 42-13 on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game, was chosen for the inaugural College Football Playoff and the committee slotted Mississippi and Mississippi State into the other playoff-affiliated bowls.
Rather than bypass two-time reigning SEC East champion Missouri, the Citrus Bowl invited the Tigers to their first Florida bowl game since a 19-17 win over Southern Mississippi in the 1981 Tangerine Bowl in Orlando.
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“I’m very honored,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said during a news conference Sunday evening at Memorial Stadium. “They had their choice of a lot of different schools they could have taken in the SEC, and they chose the University of Missouri. That makes me feel real good as a matter of fact. I needed something to pick me up a little bit today.”
MU’s players were similarly excited.
“We had a 10-win season in the SEC,” sophomore linebacker Michael Scherer said. “That’s hard to do. I think they noticed that, they realized that and I’m just glad to be there.”
Bowl snubs were among a handful of driving forces behind the Tigers’ decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.
The most painful, of course, was when Kansas played in the Orange Bowl after the 2007 season despite a loss to Missouri during the season in arguably the most pivotal game in both programs’ modern history.
Missouri also landed in the 2009 Texas Bowl against Navy and the 2011 Independence Bowl against North Carolina despite better resumes than Big 12 teams that were slotted into more prestigious bowls with better payouts.
“I kind of thought maybe for a little bit that was going to happen again,” Scherer said. “I don’t pay much attention to how big each bowl is or really didn’t know much, but I saw some projections last night when we got on the plane that didn’t look good. It’s nice that it turned out well for us.”
Respect — specifically, a lack of it — has been a big storyline around Missouri’s program this season, so it felt great to receive a measure of it from the Citrus Bowl.
“Especially being the underdogs that we’ve been all year, being picked is very special — but, at the same time, I think we’ve earned this,” said junior center Evan Boehm, a Lee’s Summit West graduate. “We’ve worked hard for this and we have to send our seniors out the right way. Going down to the Citrus Bowl and playing a very good Minnesota team is going to be part of that.”
Missouri executive associate athletic director Bryan Maggard said Missouri will have a minimum allotment of 8,000 tickets for the game.
Junior linebacker Kentrell Brothers, MU’s leading tackler, said he hyperextended his left knee late in the SEC Championship Game.
“I have it wrapped up pretty tight right now, and I rehabbed it a little bit this morning, so I should be fine,” he said.
Brothers doesn’t expect the injury to keep him out of the Citrus Bowl, but backup safety Cortland Browning won’t be available. Browning, a junior, injured a tendon in his foot during practice last week and had surgery during the weekend.
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com.