While many of the schools in the Big XII have opened conference play already, Missouri not only hasn't played a league game, but had a week off last Saturday. The Tigers took in some of the results around the league and came to the same conclusion many fans have-this year, the Big XII may be up for grabs as much as ever.
"I think you could definitely say that," said senior cornerback Carl Gettis. "You see the way Baylor and Iowa State came out and played, got good wins. Every team this year seems like they're competing. It's not gonna be any easy games. There will never be an easy game when you get into Big 12 play."
Baylor beat Kansas 55-7, its biggest margin of victory in 14 years of Big XII play. Iowa State scored 52 on Texas Tech and sent the Red Raiders to 0-and-2 in the conference. Texas fell to Oklahoma and when the Longhorns travel to Lincoln, Neb., Mack Brown will be looking to avoid his first ever three-game losing streak on the 40 Acres.
"There's talent in every program," said junior tailback De'Vion Moore. "We know that every team in the Big 12 is capable of winning games."
Gary Pinkel says it is far too early to draw any conclusions. But the coach doesn't expect the league to be any easier than it's ever been.
"It's hard to judge on one or two games. The league will sort itself out, as it always does, after, you know, three or four or five weeks," Pinkel said. "We've got a lot of good coaches in this league. They do a good job recruiting and building programs...I look for the league to be very, very strong."
When the Tigers and Buffaloes meet on Saturday evening, it will be the 76th game between the two teams, with Missouri holding a 41-31-3 edge. They have played every season since 1946, but with CU headed to the PAC-10 next season, it's unlikely they will hook up again in the regular season anytime soon.
"I like the mountains, I like going out to Colorado," receivers coach Andy Hill said. "Some of the better games we have played as a team on the road have been there."
Most of the talk this week will center around the 20th anniversary of the Fifth Down Game in 1990. But for a couple of members of the Tiger staff, it's a different game against Colorado that stands out.
"One distinctive memory for me was '97," Hill said. "We made bowl eligibility at Colorado after having 13 or 14 years without a bowl. That was really significant."
A 41-31 win in Boulder put the Tigers 6-and-3 on the season, ensuring a post-season invitation for the first time since 1983.
"Thinking back long ago, yeah, that was a big win for our program," said safeties coach Barry Odom, who was a sophomore linebacker on that 1997 team. "It had been so long since Missouri had even thought about going to a bowl game to get that win out there, yeah, that was a big one out there."
The next week, Missouri would lose to Nebraska 41-38 in the "Flea Kicker" contest, but would finish the regular season 7-and-4 before losing to Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl.
Pinkel announced that Aldon Smith would miss a second consecutive game this weekend recovering from a fractured fibula. Pinkel said Smith is working hard, but the medical staff did not feel he was ready to play. The coach did not put a timetable on Smith's return.
The sophomore defensive end is the only player likely to miss the game due to injury. Luke Lambert is slated to return after missing three games due to a hamstring problem. Jasper Simmons and Jimmy Burge will be out due to "indefinite suspensions."
With Burge out, George White and Brendan Donaldson are the second-team defensive tackles. Jarrell Harrison and Kenji Jackson will start at safety again in Simmons' absence.
"Any time in any position if you have an injury or whatever, the next guy's got to step up," Odom said. "The entire group, with those two and then Matt White and Tavon Bolden, they've all grown up a little bit. Still, we're a long ways off, but they're all playing a lot better."
Still Sticking Around
One Buff the Tiger defenders will have to deal with once again is wideout Scotty McKnight. The Buffs all-time leading receiver is still playing in Boulder, much to the surprise and chagrin of the Tigers.
"It seems like he's been there forever, no question," Odom said. "I saw him at the beginning of the year and though, my gracious, he's still around."
"I know, it seems like he's been there forever," Gettis said. "We were looking at film talking about that the other day, man, Scotty's still there. It's crazy."
McKnight also now has a running mate in Michigan transfer Toney Clemons that has the Buff passing game more dangerous than recent editions.
"They have two guys they can get the ball to," Gettis said. "Both of them can make plays. You already know Scotty McKnight, his play-making ability. Now he's got somebody to go along with him."
McKnight has 16 catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Clemons has ten grabs for 156 yards, including a 73-yard score.
On the Tube
The Tigers are back on free television for the first time since the season opener. The game in Columbia will kick off just after 6:00 p.m. Central time on Fox Sports Net. That means the game is available to all Tiger fans with FSN...except those who subscribe to Dish Network. Dish and Fox are currently involved in contract negotiations and the Fox Sports regional channels are unavailable on Dish Network.
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