The No. 11 ranked Missouri Tigers are winning differently than in recent years. Sure, they still run the spread offense, but the 2010 team is relying on their defense more than ever.
While the Tiger offense has received all of the accolades since the days of Brad Smith, Missouri’s defense has quietly built themselves into one heck of a unit.
Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel has his group playing aggressively in 2010 and it has paid off. The hated “bend but don’t break” Mizzou defense has turned into an intimidating bunch that flies to the football on every single play.
This coming Saturday with prime time coverage, the Tigers will get their biggest test of the season as the No. 1 (in the computer’s mind) Oklahoma Sooners role into town.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel knows that MU will need to beat OU in order to be taken seriously.
"If you want to talk in the same sentence with Oklahoma, you have to go beat them," said Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel. "That's all. That's something I haven't done, something I want to do."
In Pinkel’s 10 years at Missouri, he has turned the Tigers into a nationally recognized football program. What he needs to do now is beat Oklahoma. While building Mizzou into a Big 12 North contender year in and year out he has failed to beat Oklahoma and their head coach Bob Stoops.
This is not the first time that the Sooners have stood in Missouri’s way. In 2007, the Sooners ruined MU’s undefeated season and then went on to beat the Tigers once again in the Big 12 Championship game.
Now coach Pinkel and his Tigers have another opportunity to beat Oklahoma and show the nation that they are truly ready to take on the “big boys” of college football.
The Tigers have been denied so many times and for so long by the Sooners that it just feels right this time around. The talent gap has increasingly gotten smaller between Oklahoma and Missouri, yet the Tigers need to win to validate that fact.
The Missouri players are all too aware of Oklahoma’s reign over the Tiger program.
"It hasn't been talked about, but I think most players do think that," said senior cornerback Kevin Rutland. "I know definitely I've thought about it, that we need this to solidify ourselves."
A victory Saturday would definitely cure what ails the Tigers. Defeating the Sooners would give Pinkel his first taste of victory over Stoops as well as move the Tigers into the top 10 in the national rankings.
Mizzou 34 - Oklahoma 24