|Written by Julian Dread.
In the pro game, it often times happens that a game earlier in the season ends up serving as a lesson for the losing team. A lesson they can turn to come playoff time or a second meeting that allows them the strength and confidence to go out and win the rematch.
With the scheduling and conference championships in college football, the same scenario can now apply to college teams. Such is the case with Missouri, as they enter a rematch with the Oklahoma Sooners this weekend with a chance to play in the national championship on the line.
The Tigers' only loss this season came to the Oklahoma Sooners in an October 13 game the team should have and could have won. A dropped interception and an unfortunate turnover by the Tigers lead to a sudden collapse and the team's only loss of the season.
Those two mistakes not withstanding, the Tigers played well enough to win, and that performance and the Tigers' surging offensive attack should give the #1-ranked underdog all they need to shock the world and punch their ticket for the BCA Championship.
Of course, being #1 in the country has its downside, as we have come to learn all too well this season. That could be part of the reason that the No. 9 Oklahoma is predicted by many to win the Big XII title game.
Missouri (11-1, 7-1) is the fourth team this season to claim the catbird's seat, following Southern California, LSU and Ohio State, all of whom were upset. The top ranking for the Tigers is their first in 47 years and offers them the chance to play for the national title with a win over Oklahoma. But the Tigers, who will be playing Saturday night in San Antonio for only their second conference title in school history, are trying not to let the rarified air in which they find themselves get to their heads.
"Obviously, it's a nice honor for our program," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "But we've got so much to play for and so much preparation to put in for a great Oklahoma team that we really can't spend much time thinking about that.
Missouri knows that getting to New Orleans on January 7 for the title game will not be an easy task. Standing in the way is an Oklahoma team that has beat them six straight times and is currently playing some of its best football of the year. With a win, Oklahoma would secure its record-best fifth Big XII title and return to the Fiesta Bowl for the second straight year, most likely to play another small at-large school like Hawaii.
"It's another big challenge, just excited about it," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, "They're a good team, we recognize that, but we feel that we match up well with them obviously in all parts of the game. That makes it exciting."
Oklahoma may feel good about the way they match up with the number one team in the country, and they do have a quarterback who has put up numbers equal to Missouri's Heisman candidate Chase Daniel, but the Sooners will be facing a Missouri team that will look different from the one they narrowly defeated two months ago.
Running back Tony Temple will play in San Antonio , unlike the first match-up this season which he missed with an ankle injury. Temple has rushed for over 700 yards in the games in which he did play and will provide a ground attack that will allow Daniel a balanced attack and more time to throw against a very speedy Oklahoma defense, and his presence should definitely improve on the 57 rushing yards Misouri put up last time against Oklahoma.
"Having Tony back is great," Pinkel said. "We never came out of that game saying we wished we had Tony Temple, we don't do that around here, and other players I thought went in and did a good job. But Tony, he can make a huge impact. There's no question he makes us a better team."
But no matter what Temple is able to provide the Tigers, the game will most likely come down to Daniel's ability to play a near flawless game. The top-three Heisman candidate was near perfect against Kansas last week, going 40-49 and 361 yards in a must-win game. Daniel has not thrown an interception in his last three games, and his judgment and accuracy will be needed this Saturday. In his last game against Oklahoma he threw a career high two interceptions, balls that cost the Tigers the game. If he can learn from his past experiences against Oklahoma and avoid those mistakes Saturday, Missouri should find itself playing for the school's first ever national championship.
"For the most part, we just have to go out there and play with confidence that we've had for the past five weeks," Daniel said.
Current line Missouri +3.
Last updated on November 30, 2007.