Friday, October 27, 2006

Biggest... game... EVER... at least until next week

By Tiger Fan

Before I get to the preview, a few thoughts on our last few games (I’ve been kind of busy and unable to weigh in as much as usual):

-The Texas Tech game is a perfect example of why it is difficult to be a Tiger fan: We were up 24-0 and while I was thrilled, I was sitting there waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then it started… 24-7… 24-14… 24-21… NO, NOT AGAIN! Thankfully the Tigers pulled it out, but I really wish they wouldn’t do that to us. I’m only 23, I can take it… but one of these days an older Mizzou fan won’t be so lucky!

-There were obviously lots of problems with the A&M game. The fumbles killed us (while I’m sure Marcus Woods is a nice guy and a hard worker, I don’t know if he will ever touch the ball again) and Pinkel’s asinine fake field goal attempt after the delay of game will be joke-fodder for years to come. But Will Franklin’s fumble at the goal-line is one of those plays that just seems like it will come back to haunt you. I’m not blaming the ‘Copter… the Aggie defender made a great play. And it completely changed the tone of the game. I am certain the Tigers win big if he scores on that play. Instead, the Aggies marched down the field and took the lead. So what’s the big deal? Right now, it’s just one loss. But put a star next to that play. If the Tigers finish one game out in the Big XII North race, you’ll know why.

-On a brighter note, great win last week by the Tigers to finally end the 13-year losing streak to KSUcks. Daniel looked great after the first play and the defense was lights out after making that stop on fourth-and-goal. A lot of folks were concerned about how many rushing yards they gave up, but I don’t think it was a big deal. First, the Wildcats racked up a lot of those yards late in the game after several reserves were in the game. Second, I think most of the missed tackles can be attributed to the rain. Take Freeman’s big run in the third, for example. Four Mizzou players were in exactly the right place, but they slipped and fell because of the wet turf. That’s just unlucky. The early forecast looks like that won’t be an issue vs. OU. Speaking of which…

I’ve discovered that something interesting happens when a college football team is winning consistently: Each game becomes more important. This may not be news to the Ohio State and USC fans of the world, but Mizzou fans haven’t had a one-loss record this late in the season in decades. You know, this winning thing is kind of fun. Anyway, the point is that this Saturday’s game against Oklahoma is the biggest game of the year – if not the decade – for the Tigers... well okay, at least until next week’s showdown with Nebraska.

But you get the idea: This is big-time stuff. It’s a chance for Mizzou to prove that it deserves all the national attention. It’s a chance to silence the nay-sayers. And it’s a chance to show that Mizzou has finally turned the corner under Pinkel. I think a win on Saturday would prove the Tigers are for real and will be a legitimate force in the Big XII for years to come. A loss proves that we really are the beneficiaries of a weak schedule and despite the 7-1 record, we’re the same old Mizzou.

Everyone wants to talk about beating Nebraska next week and winning the Big XII North. While that would obviously be great, I think the game against OU is more important for long-term success. No one outside Columbia will pick Mizzou to win in Lincoln… but we’re supposed to beat the Sooners on Saturday. Good teams win the games they are supposed to win. So we’ll get to find out if we have a good team. If the Tigers win on Saturday, we should end up with at least 10 wins… which is remarkable when you consider what this team has been over the last 20 years. And after that, if we were to beat Nebraska to win the North, it would be icing on the cake. But first things first… let’s go get the Sooners:


This one is pretty easy. Bob Stoops took over an Oklahoma program in the late ‘90s that had fallen out of the national spotlight. But it didn’t take him long to restore that tradition: He’s got a .824 winning percentage and has led the Sooners to seven bowl games (including four BCS games), three Big XII titles and the 2000 National Championship. He’s also 2-0 vs. Pinkel. Nothing against Gary, but there’s no argument here.

Advantage: Oklahoma


OU is always known for having a tough defense, but prior to doing some research, I was under the mistaken impression that the Sooners were having an off-year. That’s simply not the case. Oklahoma boasts the top defensive unit in the Big XII and No. 11 in the country, allowing just over 266 yards per game. Normally the Tiger offense wins games through the air, but they will need to establish the ground game in this one. Oklahoma ranks just 41st against the run compared to 11th against the pass. Many have also bemoaned Missouri’s porous rush defense, but it’s worth noting that the Tigers only give up about 110 yards per game on the ground. I think the defensive battle will be won by whichever team can stuff the run. OU Linebacker Rufus Alexander leads the team in tackling and seems to be on the watch list for every meaningful defensive award. Injuries will also play a role in this one: OU’s starting strong safety Reggie Smith will be limited with a broken tibia (though he may still play) while the Tigers will be without All-American candidate Brian Smith for the rest of the year. His replacement, Styker Sulak, will need to have a big game for Mizzou to be successful on defense.

Advantage: Oklahoma (by just a hair)


The hurdles facing the Oklahoma offense this season have been well-documented: QB Rhett Bomar was kicked off the team and Heisman candidate RB Adrian Peterson was lost for the season two weeks ago with a broken collarbone. Senior WR Paul Thompson has been a solid replacement at QB, but his inexperience limits the Sooners play-calling. While Thompson can’t always make the big plays, he has made up for it by being very efficient and not making mistakes. For most of the season, the offense has focused on Peterson, so the Sooners will turn to Allen Patrick in his absence. Patrick ran for 110 yards last week against Colorado. Also look for Jacob Gutierrez to get some touches in the backfield. On the Mizzou side, everyone named Chase continues to be amazing. I think Tony Temple and Earl Goldsmith will be the key to a Tiger win. If they can run on the OU defense and set up the pass, it could be a fun day for Mizzou.

Advantage: Mizzou

Special Teams

OU has a very good special teams unit. The only good news is that top return man Reggie Smith probably won’t be available for returns because of his injury. Wolfert has been fine on field goals for the Tigers, but we need to fix our punt and kickoff coverage quickly.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Bottom Line

OU has won 15 of the last 16 against Mizzou, but the Tigers are favored by a couple points on Saturday. Things are pretty much as even as they could be for this game: OU averages 32 points per game, Mizzou averages 33… OU gives up 16 points per game, Mizzou averages 15… neither team has beaten a top 25 team… both teams have dominated inferior competitions. The Sooners seem to have the better defense, while the Tigers seem to have the better offense. I really have no idea what is going to happen on Saturday, which is why I think it is hilarious that so many fans on both sides are extremely confident that their team will win big. This one will go down to the wire and if it were in Norman, I would pick the Sooners. But it’s not… so I’m picking the Tigers, 24-21.

No comments: