Sunday, September 26, 2010

Looking at 21 straight regular season noncon wins

Missouri (4-0) wrapped up the nonconference portion of its schedule by rolling to a 51-13 win over Miami (Ohio) last Saturday. The Tigers wasted no time ensuring this game would need none of the previous week’s last-minute heroics, scoring on a fumble return for a touchdown eight seconds into the game. It was the fastest opening Tiger score in coach Gary Pinkel’s 10 years at Mizzou, and it may be the fastest Missouri score ever.

By the end of the first quarter Missouri led 21-0. By halftime it was 28-3, and it was basically over. It was the Tigers’ 21st straight regular season nonconference win.

This streak dates back to a 45-35 loss to New Mexico in the 2005 home opener. It’s largely peppered with wins against weaker competition, but it is admirable to go that many games without a hiccup loss to an inferior team.

Every year since 2006, Missouri has picked up a win against both a Football Championship Subdivision team and a team from the Mid-American Conference. From 2007 through 2010, each season has also included a win over Illinois, a team that has been competitive at times but largely disappointing in recent years.

A look at the location of these 21 straight nonconference wins, as well as the conference affiliation of these opponents, shows a schedule built for success and confidence-building. Of these 21 games, 14 have been at home, three were on the road and four were at neutral sites. Five came against FCS teams, five came against teams from the MAC, four against the Big Ten (all against Illinois), two against Mountain West Conference teams, two against Southeastern Conference competition (a home-and-home series with Mississippi) and one game against a Sun Belt team.

There have been a few decent wins to write home about during this time. The wild 40-34 win in 2007 against an Illinois team that would play in the Rose Bowl that year launched Missouri on its historic 12-2 season. Missouri also won at Mississippi that year, even though Ole Miss didn’t win a single SEC game that year. Last year’s win at Nevada was impressive, especially after the Wolf Pack won eight straight after the Tigers beat them.

For the most part, the August and September nonconference challenges have been light, with each 4-0 start rousing fan interest, leaving them to wonder whether they had something special or dolled-up mediocrity. Starting in 2006, the year Missouri began this run of 4-0 starts, the Tigers have taken their first loss in their third, second, second and first Big 12 Conference game. Reality has been swift in arriving. Of course, Missouri has rallied after these first losses to win the Big 12 North in 2007 and 2008, going 4-4, 7-1, 5-3, and 4-4 in Big 12 play in these four seasons.

Now Missouri has a bye week before conference play begins against Colorado on Oct. 9 at Faurot Field. The game will ease Missouri into conference play before a difficult four-game stretch begins.

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