COLUMBIA — The MU football team seems to be getting plenty of practice in so-called "bowl game atmospheres" lately.
Saturday's game in St. Louis against Illinois marks MU's fourth straight neutral-site matchup, after the Border Showdown, the Big 12 Conference Championship and the Cotton Bowl last season.
"It just kind of fell that way," coach Gary Pinkel said Tuesday, noting that many games are scheduled years in advance. Missouri and Illinois agreed in 2007 to play in St. Louis until 2010.
"Really, I thought that worked out pretty good last year," Pinkel said of the Tigers' 40-34 victory.
Pinkel's team meets Illinois at the Edward Jones Dome for the State Farm Arch Rivalry game with higher stakes this year. Both teams are ranked in the preseason polls. MU leads the series 14-7, and has won its past three games against Illinois. For games played in St. Louis, the Tigers have a 4-1 edge over the Illini.
"I think it's a great first start, a great first game," Pinkel said.
Missouri and Illinois do not have a fiery football history, but the rivalry could be heating up.
"It's a border war game," Illini coach Ron Zook said. "It's great for the program and it's great for the fans."
Missouri's schedule includes a neutral-site game against Kansas on Nov. 29 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
Pinkel admits a lineup with two off-site games is not very common, but having 12 games in a season makes it easier to do. Pinkel said schools consider the benefits of such games before developing their schedules.
"I think there's got to be financial value, and there has to be fan value also, so I think you look at both those," he said.
Of course, Pinkel has not forgotten the fans awaiting games at Faurot Field.
"You got to watch yourself though because you're proud of where you play," Pinkel said. "We have an obligation to the community here in Columbia."
The Tigers' first home game is Sept. 6 against Southeast Missouri State.