Mizzou and Oklahoma
Mizzou’s football program has been on the rise ever since Gary Pinkel took over in 2001. He’s put his stamp on the Tigers, building high-powered offenses based around excellent quarterbacks. Mizzou was one win away from a national title in 2007 and has appeared in several Big 12 championships the past decade. This Saturday, ESPN’s College Gameday will make its way to Columbia, Missouri for the matchup of #1 Oklahoma and #11 Missouri. Oklahoma has been the proverbial thorn in Missouri’s side since Gary Pinkel arrived. He hasn’t beaten Oklahoma in six tries and some of those losses were more devastating than just another loss.
After losses to OU in 2002 and 2003, the Tigers and Sooners didn’t meet again until 2006. The Tigers were 7-1 (3-1 Big 12) and coming off a big win against Kansas State. The Sooners were unranked and struggling through the season after their starting quarterback Rhett Bomar was forced to leave the school following NCAA sanctions and star running back Adrian Peterson was out with a broken collarbone. It looked like a good opportunity for Missouri to knock off one of the historical Big 12 powerhouses. But Peterson’s replacement ran all over the Missouri defense and the OU defense held the offense that had been averaging over 30 points a game to just 10 and won by sixteen.
The next season, Missouri once again started the season unranked but skated through a soft non-conference schedule and then pummeled Nebraska on national television 41-6 to move to 5-0 headed into the Oklahoma game. Mizzou headed into Norman to face the number 6 ranked Sooners and erased a 13 point deficit to take a one-point lead into the fourth quarter. But Oklahoma rattled off three straight touchdowns to knock Mizzou from the ranks of the unbeatens.
The two Big 12 rivals would meet again two and a half months later in the Big 12 championship game. In the time since their first meeting, Oklahoma had suffered their second loss of the season two weeks beforehand against Texas Tech which wiped out their national championship hopes, but Missouri had won six straight games by an average of more than three touchdowns and came into the game 11-1 and ranked second in the nation. A win against Oklahoma would send Missouri to the BCS national championship game. The two teams were deadlocked at 14 going into halftime and Mizzou was 30 minutes away from college football’s biggest game, but Oklahoma scored twice within a span of two minutes in the third quarter to take a 28-14 lead. Missouri was overmatched by the bigger and stronger Sooners and lost by a score of 38-17 to knock them out of national title contention.
They did not meet in the 2008 regular season, but the 9-3 Tigers won the Big 12 North and the right to face Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship for the second consecutive season. This time around it was Oklahoma looking at a trip to the national championship game should they win the Big 12 and Missouri looked to return the favor Oklahoma paid them the previous season. But Oklahoma was better and Missouri not as good as the last time they met and Oklahoma wiped the floor with Missouri in a 62-21, piling up over 600 yards of total offense without turning the ball over. Oklahoma would move on to the national championship game against Florida which they lost 24-14 while Missouri managed a 30-23 Alamo Bowl win over Northwestern.
Missouri (#11) and Oklahoma (#1) have not met since the 2008 Big 12 championship and both come into Saturday’s College Gameday matchup with 6-0 records and realistic national title hopes. ESPN’s College Gameday will make it’s way to Columbia for the first time. This will be the fifth Mizzou game that they cover, but the first time that MU’s campus will play host to Chris Fowler and company as they preview Saturday’s matchup. Gameday covered the Mizzou-Oklahoma game in Norman (2007), the Border War matchup in Kansas City (2007), the Big 12 title game (2007) and the Mizzou-Texas game (2008).
This will be the third time Missouri participates in a Gameday while ranked #11 and are 0-4 in Gameday games. They have been the higher ranked team only once, in the 2008 Big 12 Championship game when they were #1 and Oklahoma was #9. Gameday is known for it’s prediction segment, when various people predict the winner of the game. Two of the more well-known predictors are Lee Corso, who dons the mascot head of the team he picks and the celebrity picker, who is a well-known alum from the host school. NFL quarterback Brad Smith, actor Brad Pitt and performer Sheryl Crow have all been unavailable for this weekend’s matchup, and the celebrity is still TBD.
It’s a huge opportunity for not only Missouri’s football program but to showcase the campus, the school and the town to the rest of the country. I wish that I was able to make it out there to be on the quad in the crowd the morning of the game, but hopefully the student body and community has one helluva showing. And hopefully that showing is well-behaved and mature. Missouri has some terrible juvenile fans and the school would do well to avoid those particular individuals when representing itself on a national scale.
Due to the nature of college football that includes high turnover rates, games that happened two or three years ago have little significance on what will transpire this year. Mizzou and Oklahoma are still included amongst the nation’s top teams, but both are starkly different from their 2007 or 2008 counterparts. Oklahoma owned the nation’s highest scoring offense and was loaded with future NFL talent led by quarterback Sam Bradford. Missouri had a flashy offense but an extremely porous defense. They were dominated on both the offensive and defensive lines and could not establish any semblance of a running game.
This time around, Missouri possesses more complete talent on the defensive line and the offensive line looks to be the best unit Gary Pinkel has had. Despite the dismissal of top running back Derrick Washington before the season, Mizzou has used four different running backs and is averaging nearly five yards a carry headed into their matchup with the Sooners. Both teams have changed, as college teams are wont to do. Both are still excellent programs, but have adjusted themselves to the talent that they have. Expect the Zou to be rocking on Saturday night and one helluva football game.