Don’t expect Ian Simon and the Missouri Tigers to feel any entitlement or pay attention to their Top 10 national ranking.
Simon and his teammates still have work to do.
“We tune all of that out, and no one has bought in to the noise,” said Simon, a redshirt sophomore safety out of Mansfield Legacy. “We know what it’s like to be on the bottom. We just have to remain humble.”
Last season, Mizzou finished fifth in the SEC East, had an overall record of 5-7 and didn’t play in a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
With a win against Texas A&M Saturday, however, the Tigers will finish the regular season with only one loss and play either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC championship game.
“This season has been extra special,” Simon said. “As a kid, you dream of playing in the spotlight. As a team, we just circled the wagons. We committed ourselves to our assignments. We learned how to depend on teammates. All of this was there last year, it’s just grown.”
Simon finished the 2012 season strong, with six tackles in a 59-29 loss at A&M.
A strong off-season has paid off for Simon, who was named the team’s most improved safety after spring practices. Simon has played in 10 of Mizzou’s 11 games and recorded 33 tackles (17 solo), with an interception, five pass breakups and two tackles for loss.
“I think it’s been a combination of decent playing time and me understanding my role,” Simon said. “I’ve matured as a competitor. Your opponent is going to land some punches. You just have to land more.”
The final hurdle between the Tigers and a conference championship game in Atlanta is a big one: the Aggies, led by reigning Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who could be playing his final regular season game.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Simon said. “It will be a great atmosphere. We will have to play disciplined football. Johnny Manziel can do some amazing things.
“Everyone at home will be watching.”
Games of the week
“I’m not sure what I do, to be honest.” — First-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn after being asked if he fries or roasts his Thanksgiving turkey. Malzahn has other things to worry about, like an Iron Bowl matchup between his Tigers and Alabama, with a trip to the SEC championship game in Atlanta on the line. Malzahn didn’t play up the game, however, saying: “We’re not going to hype things up. It’s big enough already.”
“Wow. Apologize.” — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer after being informed that he once called his team’s rival Michigan, its actual name. Meyer has made a point to use other terms, including “that team up north,” during his time with the Buckeyes. Michigan’s name and logo are even missing from the Ohio State schedule posted in its athletic center. The Buckeyes will play that team up north on the road this week.