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Tiger Extra Central: Missouri vs. No. 2 Alabama

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (11) catches a pass next to Missouri safety Tyree Gillespie (9) during a Southeastern Conference game Oct. 13, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Nearly 300 days have passed since Eli Drinkwitz was introduced as the 33rd head coach in the history of Missouri football.

What an unconventional ride his first year in Columbia has been.

After six months of what-ifs and questions over whether there would even be a college football season in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, Drinkwitz and the Tigers are set to kick off their 10-game, Southeastern Conference-only schedule at 6 p.m. Saturday at Faurot Field before a limited crowd of less than 12,000.

Coach Nick Saban and No. 2 Alabama stand in the Tigers’ way.

Missouri enters Saturday night’s primetime matchup on ESPN as a 28-point underdog. The Tigers will be without at least seven players due to COVID-19 protocols, and perhaps their biggest unknown on the field remains who will start at quarterback: TCU transfer Shawn Robinson or redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak. Drinkwitz has maintained silence on which way he is leaning.

Alabama provides the highest-ranked opening opponent for Missouri since 1975, when the Tigers pulled a 20-7 upset over the second-ranked Crimson Tide in Birmingham. The Tigers’ most recent victory over a ranked team to begin a season was their 52-42 win over No. 20 Illinois in 2018 in St. Louis.

Here is your one-stop shop for game day preview coverage:

Drinkwitz, Mizzou finally reach first game after challenging offseason

SEC navigates pandemic as season begins

On the Beat with the Alabama Crimson Tide

Blum’s Banter: Tigers face tall Tide in opener

Blum: Missouri football 2020 game-by-game picks

Mizzou Sports Podcast: Tigers set to open season vs. No. 2 Alabama

SEC Power Rankings for Week 1

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Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz runs during a August 2020 team practice at the Kadlec Practice Fields.