Tigers to face Minnesota in Citrus Bowl

“I’m very honored,” Pinkel said. “There are a lot of different schools they could have taken from the SEC and they chose the University of Missouri.”

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel clearly remembers the last time he was at the Citrus Bowl.

In 1972, when Pinkel and Kent State traveled down to Orlando to play in the Tangerine Bowl — the game's former name — Pinkel, then a tight end, was injured right before the end of the second quarter. Upon Pinkel arriving in the locker room, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto greeted him.

“They have me on the table with my leg out and they’re looking at my knee,” Pinkel said, laughing. “And these guys are all just staring at me. You can’t write a script like that.”

No. 16 Missouri will play No. 25 Minnesota in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015. The matchup was announced Sunday.

The Citrus Bowl, also formerly known as the Capital One Bowl, will begin at noon Central Time on New Year’s Day. During the Bowl Championship Series era, the Citrus Bowl chose the top Southeastern Conference and Big Ten teams not vying for a national championship to represent their conferences in the Orlando-based bowl game.

“I’m very honored,” Pinkel said. “There are a lot of different schools they could have taken from the SEC and they chose the University of Missouri.”

The Tigers, who were picked to finish fourth in the SEC East at the beginning of the year, once again defied critics, concluding regular season play with a 10-2 record and their second consecutive berth in the SEC championship game.

Despite losing to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship Saturday, Pinkel said he was proud of his team’s resilience throughout the season.

“A lot of people didn’t think we’d be a very good football team,” Pinkel said. “And before you know it, we won the SEC East championship and played the number one team in the nation. I’m so very proud of my players and coaches.”

Mizzou’s opponent, the No. 25 Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4), finished second in the Big Ten West division, falling to Illinois, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 16 Wisconsin in conference play. Minnesota’s lone win over a ranked opponent came against then-No. 23 Nebraska on Nov. 22.

Neither Minnesota nor Missouri has beaten a team currently ranked in the top 25.

The Gophers haven’t won a bowl game in over a decade, with their last victory coming in the 2004 Music City Bowl against Alabama.

Minnesota running back David Cobb leads the Gopher offense, racking up 1,548 rushing yards this season, a school record. The senior averages 5.3 yards per carry and has scored thirteen touchdowns this year.

“I haven’t seen much of those guys,” senior wide receiver Bud Sasser said. “But I’ll watch some stuff this week.”

Last year the Tigers defeated Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl, something many players think can be used as a learning experience for big games. Succeeding in the SEC is another accomplishment many players feel brings confidence to the team.

“It’s just good that we’ve had several back-to-back double-digit winning seasons,” sophomore linebacker Michael Scherer said. “It’s a difficult thing to do, especially in the SEC.”

Beyond the game, a trip to Disney World is in store.

“I’ve never been,” Sasser said. “I just want to tell everybody I’m going to Disney World like I’m in the league.”

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