|Written by Chris Coleman.
If you said that only one of the two teams entering the October 13 game between Missouri and Oklahoma would be undefeated and that that team would be the Tigers of Mizzou, people would probably have laughed at you. But that is the case this Saturday as the 5-0 Tigers visit Norman to take on the 5-1 Sooners.
The Tigers are playing some of their best football in decades, but history does not favor Gary Pinkel's team, which is 2-15 against ranked teams during the coach's seven year tenure. What is more, the Tigers have lost 16 of their last 17 against the Sooners and have not won in Norman since 1966. Could this be the year the Tigers turn the table on their Big XII mates, and in the process position themselves for a run at a national title?
The Tigers have started 5-0 for the second year, but certainly their #11 ranking is rarified air for these Tigers, who have not been ranked this highly since 1981. Missouri may have payback on their mind when they visit Norman, after the Sooners knocked them out of the Top 25 last season. But the Tigers will have to exact their revenge without leading rusher, Tony Temple, who was injured in the first half of last week's blowout victory over the struggling Nebraska Cornhuskers.
With Temple out, the Tigers will need to rely even more heavily on their star quarterback, Chase Daniel, who has gotten off to a tremendous start this season, averaging 368 yards passing for the 5 th ranked offense in the country. Despite the fact that a win would place Missouri in the top 10 in the country and on the fast track to a Big XII title game, Daniel is trying to temper his enthusiasm.
"It's a big game because it's the next game. As I said last week, we're not approaching it like a do-or-die, it's your life, you better win, if you don't win, you're going to be fired. It's a football game, just go out there, have fun, play hard, do what you can and move the football," Daniel said.
Daniel and his reliable tight end tandem of Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman should give the Sooners secondary fits all day, especially if the Tigers can get some consistent production out of Temple's back-up Jimmy Jackson.
While the Tigers highly-ranked offense will likely have some degree of success, the Tigers, who have one of the worst pass defenses in the country, will have their hands full with quarterback Sam Bradford, who is gaining confidence each week and is coming off a strong showing against Texas last weekend. The Tigers D-Line will be outmatched in a big way by the OU O-Line, and they will most likely not be able to put much pressure on Bradford, despite their blitz packages. That will leave the Tigers defensive backs to keep them in the game, and that is a scary prospect. Should the Sooners defense keep Missouri's scoring attack at bay for the first half of the game, Bradford should be able to get some points on the board early and then let Oklahoma rely on their strong ground game to wear the smaller Missouri team down.
Missouri has been quietly writing a fine Cinderella story for themselves this season, but I don't see them being able to stop Oklahoma's offense. If Texas gave up 28, expect Missouri to do the same, ending their magical run at a national title, but leaving the door open for a Big XII championship.
Last updated on October 13, 2007.