By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A year ago, Gary Pinkel was in no mood for holiday cheer.
Missouri had gone a dispiriting 5-7 in its SEC debut season, the program's first losing record since 2005.
There has been no sophomore slump for the fifth-ranked Tigers, who surprised nearly everyone by advancing to the SEC championship game against No. 3 Auburn.
Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC) is a remarkable bounce-back story, at the least on par with Auburn (11-1, 7-1). No matter what happens in the SEC championship game on Saturday, the Tigers have shown they do indeed belong in the conference that's produced the last seven national champions.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.