We traded questions with Mizzou blog Zoublog this week, in an effort to learn more about the Missouri Tigers and their fandom. Zoublog is a good-looking Missouri sports blog, so head over there and take a lot if you're interested in Mizzou.
We responded to their questions about Nebraska as well. Nice picture they included of Brad Smith running away from our defense on that post. Smith may be gone, but don't underestimate Chase Daniel(s).
Why did Martin Rucker choose Mizzou over Nebraska when his brother Mike had attended Nebraska?
Here's what we know about the tight end situation: in 2003, Mizzou signed six tight ends. Three of them were highly touted: Josh Barbo, Rucker and Xzavie Jackson. Barbo was once considered the top recruit in the state of Kansas, and now he's a second-string defensive tackle. Jackson is currently starting at defensive end. Meanwhile, the best high school tight end in the state of Missouri in 2003 -- Will Paul -- decided to go to Michigan, where he initially played defensive end before switching to fullback.
So what does this prove? Absolutely nothing, which is -- coincidentally -- that same amount that we know about why Rucker chose Mizzou over Nebraska. I suppose it can't hurt that he's from the state, or that his dad is in Missouri's House of Representatives. Also, keep in mind: Chase Coffman, Mizzou's other tight end, has ties to K-State, since his father played tight end there. Coffman turned down family ties to come to Columbia, as well. (A story about the two appeared in the KC Star this summer.)
Missouri's Offense or Defense - which do you think is more important in the game against Nebraska and why?
This is easy: Mizzou's offense. The Tigers aren't capable of playing from behind, and it's because they were so reliant on Brad Smith all these years. When they got down 2 TDs, the coaches would turn to Smith and say, "Do something." Seriously. (Look at last year's 38-31 Independence Bowl victory as proof.) Mizzou's been a very strong 1st quarter team, and they've only allowed 20 points all year in that quarter. If the offense can put a TD on the board early and grab the lead, it'll set the tone for the team. What's happened in the two losses to A&M and Oklahoma is that they never got that lead. Against A&M, Will Franklin fumbled at the 1 yard line. Against Oklahoma, Coffman dropped a sure TD. Mizzou needs an early lead in order to settle in against the Huskers.
Did anyone expect Chase Daniels to perform as well as he has this year?
Two things about Chase: nobody in Columbia realized that he was going to be this good. We knew he had a good arm and decent speed, but no one knew that he had the intangibles. He's a great competitor and he's got serious heart. I hate to use a term like "heart," but if you don't believe me, go watch this video of the Mizzou-Texas Tech game ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rcqK2X7Exo). Watch the play about 57 seconds into the video, where Daniel scrambles, keeps a play alive, outruns a handful of Red Raiders and absolutely bulldozes a defender en route to a first down. He's made plays like this every game. He leads by example on the field.
The other thing about Chase is that there's this misconception in the media that his last name ends in "S." It doesn't. His last name is Daniel.
With all the buzz over last week's Nebraska loss to OSU is the buzz similar for Mizzou's loss to OU?
The buzz around Columbia is that this Mizzou team hasn't really changed. In the big games, Mizzou typically loses, and loses ugly. There's not a culture of winning around Columbia. Mizzou hasn't played in a January bowl game since 1969 -- five months before Armstrong's first lunar steps. They need to start winning big games -- starting this Saturday -- in order to prove that Mizzou football is really on the rise.
What do you consider a successful season for Missouri this year?
At the beginning of the year, I was hoping for something bigger than the Independence Bowl. I figured that they'd win at least 7 games (go 6-1 at home, with the 1 loss to Oklahoma, and then win one road game). Anything more than that was a bonus. This Mizzou team is going to surpass that and go -- at worst -- 9-3. That's a great season. Also, the Tigers haven't gotten TV exposure in a long time, and this year, they'll play at least seven games on TV. That's a major plus.
If Nebraska beats Missouri and wins the North is it time to fire Pinkel? How do you rate Pinkel's time at Missouri? Is another 7-5, or 8-4 season and a second place finish in the North enough to keep him?
Before this season, Gary Pinkel had coached five seasons at Mizzou and compiled a 29-30 record. Despite a sub-.500 record, people were actually talking about extending his contract. And why? Because he won a bowl game.
But go back and look at Mizzou's season. Pinkel would have been fired had the Tigers not made a bowl game last year, and they almost didn't win enough games to be bowl eligible. On homecoming, Brad Smith got hurt, and Chase Daniel brought the Tigers back from 10 points down in the 4th quarter against Iowa State. That gave Mizzou six wins on the year. Even with the bowl appearance, Pinkel could have been fired, especially after South Carolina went up 21-0 after the first quarter in the Independence Bowl. But then Smith turned in a performance for the ages, compiling 432 yards of total offense and 4 TDs The Tigers came back to win, and Pinkel took the credit for the comeback. In reality, he got two great performances from two different QBs to save his ass (Brad Smith's game versus Nebraska last year wasn't too bad, either).
Here's what we know about Pinkel: he's a lousy coach. He doesn't make adjustments at halftime. He's got terrible instincts. He handles criticism poorly. Plus, his coaching staff is the same one that he had at Toledo, so there's no imagination or new ideas with this team. Hell, even the offense they're running is stolen from Southlake Carroll (TX), the high school where Daniel played. They run the most conservative no-huddle, emtpy--backfield offense you've ever seen. But we could go on forever. Long story short: Pinkel should have been fired two years ago.
What's going to happen Saturday? How's it going to happen and what will the final score be?
If there's one thing these two teams have shown, it's that neither really wants to win the Big 12 North. When Mizzou's lost games, it hasn't been because they've been outplayed. This year, no one's really dominated them (though A&M and Oklahoma absolutely ran over the Mizzou D). The key for Mizzou is to hang around long enough to have a chance to win at the end. They can't lose this game in the 1st half.
That being said, Mizzou hasn't won in Lincoln since 1978. They've got to win one up there eventually. The streak ends this Saturday, and it's time to bring that stupid bell back to Columbia. Mizzou 27, Nebraska 21.
Anything else you want to add about Nebraska, the game, or college football in general?
I just wanted to respond to something you wrote on Corn Nation. The easy thing to say about this Mizzou team is that when they turn the ball over, they lose. That's partially true. A&M scored 10 points off of 3 Mizzou turnovers. Oklahoma scored 17 points off turnovers, and they also blocked a punt for a safety, and they went down and scored after a roughing the kicker call extended a Mizzou drive.
But the important thing is that in both games, despite the turnovers, Mizzou could have won. Against A&M, they fumbled 1 sure TD and couldn't score on a first and goal. Against Oklahoma, two TDs were dropped (one by Coffman, one by Rucker) and again, Mizzou didn't score on a first and goal situation. Because of the no-huddle offense, Mizzou runs a ton of plays (last week, they ran 73, even though the Sooners had an extra 13 minutes of time of possession), and there are several Tiger receivers who are excellent in space. Even if they turn the ball over, they're going to have opportunities to win. They've just got to score when they get the chance.
As for basketball versus football, we'd choose football. Our basketball team claims Kansas and Illinois as our biggest rivals, yet our team has never even been to a Final Four. Mizzou's sold out two games in the history of Mizzou Arena, which has been open for two seasons. The team is virtually invisible in Columbia. Even in the worst of times, Mizzou fans could always hold onto tailgaiting before football games at Faurot Field. So football it is.