Records of SEC teams in the league title game, which was introduced in 1992:
Mississippi State 0-1
South Carolina 0-1
Somebody had to survive this year's rough and tumble Western Division of the Southeastern Conference.
That somebody was Alabama.
Navigating the first division in SEC history comprised entirely of bowl-eligible teams, the Crimson Tide won the West with a 7-1 record and are 11-1 overall and ranked No. 1 by the USA Today and Associated Press polls heading into Saturday's league championship against Missouri. Alabama lost at Ole Miss on the first Saturday of October and nearly lost at Arkansas the following week, surviving the Razorbacks 14-13.
There was the drive late in regulation that allowed the Crimson Tide to pull out a 20-13 overtime triumph at LSU early last month, and then there was Saturday night's Iron Bowl inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Dizzied by a 30-7 run that gave Auburn a 33-21 lead early in the third quarter, Alabama regrouped to whip the Tigers in the fourth quarter and pull away for a 55-44 win.
"I'm proud of what our team has been able to accomplish to this point and the way they've played," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Sunday. "We had a tough loss early in the season to Ole Miss on the road, and the question then was how were they going to respond to that. I think that they've responded pretty well, and I think they responded last night to some pretty tough circumstances. I'm just really proud of the way our guys have competed all year long.
"We've got a bunch of good guys, and I just want to keep working to where we're playing with a little more consistency."
Saturday's game from the Georgia Dome will be televised by CBS with a kickoff shortly after 4 p.m.
Alabama opened as a 14-point favorite in the first meeting between the Crimson Tide and Tigers since 2012. That was Missouri's first season in the SEC, and the Tigers were thumped by the Tide 42-10 in Columbia on their way to an injury-riddled, 5-7 debut.
In the past two seasons, however, Alabama and Missouri have identical 14-2 league records. The Tigers won the East last season before losing the SEC title game to Auburn, which racked up 677 yards in a 59-42 track meet.
"We will prepare for this game like we will for any other game, and we won't ever change that," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Sunday. "This is the fifth divisional championship that we've won in the last eight years, but we have not won a conference championship in the Big 12 or the SEC. That is my responsibility, and hopefully we can play well and have an opportunity to do that."
Missouri tailback Russell Hansbrough sprained his ankle late in Friday's 21-14 victory over Arkansas, but Pinkel expects Hansbrough to go through Tuesday's practice and play Saturday. Alabama starting left tackle Cam Robinson suffered a shoulder injury against Auburn that could keep him out for a couple of days.
Saban considers Robinson day-to-day for the title game.
The West went 10-4 against the East this season but 0-4 against Missouri and Georgia. The Tigers defeated Texas A&M and Arkansas, teams that finished sixth and seventh in the West, each by a touchdown.
Alabama defeated Florida and Tennessee, teams that finished third and fourth in the East, by 42-21 and 34-20 scores.
"I still don't think that we've played as well as we're capable of playing," Saban said. "Hopefully we'll look at this new season and this opportunity to play for an SEC championship as a stimulus to practice, prepare well and play our best."
Alabama increased its series advantage in the Iron Bowl to 43-35-1. ... The Crimson Tide have won at least 11 games in six of the past seven seasons, with the lone exception being the 10-3 team of 2010. ... Alabama played in five of the first eight SEC title games, but this will be just the fourth Crimson Tide trip since 2000.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
Story updated at 9 a.m. to reflect that this will be the Tide's fourth trip to the SEC title game since 2000 and not the third.