1. More from Tennessee
So, what then has Pinkel done especially well during this 8-1 campaign? This season, perhaps more than any of the previous dozen, has been the Pinkel way of doing things at its best. And not just on game days.
Look no further than Missouri’s depth chart. If the SEC standings were based on teams’ accumulation of four- and five-star recruits, the Tigers would be fighting off Kentucky for sixth place in the Eastern Division. Instead, Mizzou’s evaluation process and player development have never produced better results. Just check out the collection of two-star recruits and overlooked prospects that contributed to Saturday’s win. Wideout L’Damian Washington. Left tackle Justin Britt. Left guard Max Copeland. Right guard Connor McGovern. Defensive end Michael Sam. Defensive tackle Harold Brantley. Linebacker Donovan Bonner. Cornerback Randy Ponder. Safety Matt White. None were widely recruited or recruited at all. Others throughout the lineup have steadily improved under the watch of Pinkel’s staff. Right tackle Mitch Morse. Wideout Marcus Lucas. Strong safety Braylon Webb.
This unheralded core, along with other high-profile players, have already doubled their number of SEC wins from last year and taken down Georgia, Florida and Tennessee — programs that have represented the SEC East in the conference championship game 20 of 21 times the game has been played.
* Hold the Line: Missouri ran for 339 yards, its most against a conference opponent since putting up 469 against Texas Tech in 2003. The Tigers ran for more yards than Tennessee had in total offense, and picked up 3.6 times the Volunteers' yardage on the ground. For the year, Missouri is outrushing its opponents by a factor of 2.2. [...]
* Just Plain Offense: Missouri posted its fifth game of 500-plus yards this season. The Tigers had six in 2011 and seven in 2007. They're averaging exactly 500 yards a game this year. Missouri has never averaged more than 500 yards in total offense for an entire season. The 2007 team came close, at 490.3 yards a game. That team finished 5th nationally in that stat. This year's team is 15th. Go figure.
Reason to hope: Missouri ran for considerably more yards against Tennessee than either Oregon or Alabama, who were the top two teams in the BCS standings entering Saturday. The Tigers racked up 339 yards on 54 carries compared to the Ducks’ 41 carries for 216 yards and the Crimson Tide’s 37 carries for 204 yards.
Reason to mope: Well, Andrew Baggett hit the upright again and Missouri only scored seven points in the second half, but there’s no reason to mope for Tigers fans. Coach Gary Pinkel’s squad crushed a Tennessee team that took Georgia to overtime and beat South Carolina. It was as complete and dominant victory.
Looking ahead: Missouri will be a heavy favorite going to Kentucky, 2-6 and 0-4 in the SEC. No game is a gimme and it is a road contest, but this is as close to a gimme as it gets in the Southeastern Conference. The big question for the week is quarterback James Franklin’s status. Will he return before the bye?
What came first, the chemistry or the wins? When asked about how his team has handled everything this season, Pinkel simply repeats what he has said dozens of times over the last two months: "I trust these kids. These kids, they're a special group of kids. They really are, to me."
At no point has the coach, who is now three wins from becoming the all-time leader in that category at his second school, offered up an "I told you so." He has said a few times that he thought the 2013 Tigers would be good and didn't understand why no one else seemed to agree.
This is as close as you will get to an admission from Pinkel that he knows what everyone thought about his team, what they thought about him, the program he has built and his future. Pinkel won't say that this season has been validation for him, a giant one-finger salute to all those who said he couldn't do it. Nobody at Mizzou will say that.
That doesn't change the fact that it is true.
Five Days to Kentucky
John Clay: Missouri will come to Commonwealth with lots of incentive
2. Poll watch
3. TWENTY. SEVEN. AND OH.
Mizzou 3, Ole Miss 0
MUtigers.com: No. 7 Mizzou Rolls Over Ole Miss, 3-0
MUtigers.com: Humble Henning Sets Mizzou Record
The Trib: Henning sets MU career kills record
Mizzou Network: Highlights: #7 Mizzou Sweeps Ole Miss
Mizzou 3, Kentucky 0
MUtigers.com: Wayne Kreklow Wins No. 500 in 3-0 Sweep of No. 19 Kentucky
The Missourian: Undefeated Missouri volleyball rolls on after routing Kentucky
Mizzou Network: HIGHLIGHTS: Mizzou Sweeps #19 Kentucky
Mizzou Network: Post Game Report: Wayne Kreklow Post Kentucky