Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel spoke with the media on the SEC Championship teleconference Sunday evening. Here’s what the 14-year head coach had to say about this Saturday’s matchup against Alabama.

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Opening statement

“We’re excited and elated that we won the SEC East …It’s an honor for us. We played in Atlanta last year and it is a great stadium and a great venue. We just get in our game week mode, our players are certainly excited about the opportunity …looking forward to the opportunity to compete.”

On how Missouri can have better luck in conference championship games

“I think you create your own luck and we always analyze everything we do. But mostly it’s about preparation with our team. We prepare for game like we prepare for any game. We wont change that… we have not won a conference championship in the big 12 or the sec and that’s my responsibility. Hopefully we can change that.”

On what he sees from Alabama

“Well you know, obviously they have high-level personnel. A lot of talent … [Blake] Sims at quarterback and to make the plays he did. And [Amari] Cooper, what do you say about him? It’s a very well-coached football team.”

On if Missouri uses the underdog role as motivation

“I think our players, obviously they know what’s going on. Certainly they are competitors and they have pride in who they are. I think our players thrive as the underdog a little bit … but honestly we don’t talk about that all coaches or players. Our whole focus is on playing our best football. I don’t bring those things up. But certainly our players are aware of what’s happening and what’s out there.”

On his thoughts of Missouri possibly making the playoff with a win vs. Alabama

“Honestly, those things take care of themselves. I don’t make predictions. We’re just doing what we do. Whatever happens happens.”

On the importance of continuity within his coaching staff

“I think it’s been really important. I have had five coaches leave and one retire in the 14 years I’ve been at Missouri. Certainly the consistency of our staff and the attention to detail … and having the continuity, especially in recruiting, has been important for us.”

On Maty Mauk improving late in the season

“He’s pretty consistent. He’s that way even if he gets nicked up. He always tries to never show more than one face with his teammates. He’s kind of back a little bit in terms of throwing the ball well and reading defenses better … it’s nice to see him making plays like we expected him to do. Certainly people around him are also playing at a high level too, but it’s nice to see him improving.”

On Alabama scoring 55 points in the Iron Bowl

“That’s interesting. When you’re that potent offensively and you can play defense at a high, consistent level, that’s certainly going to be a problem for when you play against them … that’s going to be a challenge for us, no question about it.”

On if Missouri uses recruiting rankings when evaluating players

“I never, ever looked at a recruiting ranking since I have been coaching. We have an evaluation system … we have a thing called “Mizzou Made” here which we think is one of the best [player development systems] in the country … We just do what we do and I think it would be hard to not stay we haven’t had success doing it our way.”

On if he thinks Missouri is more respected

“It’s the consistency of winning and winning at a high-level in a very difficult league. You earn respect, that’s how you get it. Hopefully, we’ve gained some respect and we’ll see how it goes from here.”

On if he thinks Missouri fans will travel well to the SEC Championship

“I don’t know. You tell me. I don’t know. I have no idea, hopefully we’re going to have a great turnaround. Our fans have been traveling in the SEC as good as anybody in the league and hopefully we’ll have a good turnout.”

On how Maty Mauk fought through adversity earlier in the season

“You learn. There’s so many different ways to have adversity as a quarterback. Started four games as a freshman … I told him when he was going through this that this was something he was going to learn from … but don’t question your ability. Just keep making yourself a better football player … I think he’s making better decisions … and I think he’s working hard at doing that and making progress.”

On if playing last year’s SEC Championship will help Missouri this time around

“It’s like a neutral-site game for us. We’re going to do what we do. We believe in what we’re doing. I think obviously when you’ve been in that environment before … I think the players now will have the experience. I think when you have that experience whether it was good or bad, you can learn from it. I think that applies to our football team.”