Monday, October 18, 2010

Mizzou barrels into Sooner showdown

Last Saturday, Missouri (6-0, 2-0 in Big 12 Conference play) traveled to Texas A&M and turned in one of the finest all-around performances of the 10-year tenure of coach Gary Pinkel. The Tigers rolled up over 400 yards of offense, kept Texas A&M out of the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter (helped by three sacks from the ferocious Brad Madison), and rolled to a 30-9 win.

The win propels Missouri (No. 16 in Coaches’ Poll, No. 18 in AP, No. 11 in BCS standings) into a big-time Homecoming showdown with Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0 in Big 12) at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Columbia (televised on ABC). Oklahoma (No. 3 in Coaches’ and AP) is No. 1 in the BCS standings, which determine who plays in the National Championship Game.

So this game will impact both the national and Big 12 title races. ESPN’s College Gameday show will be broadcasting from Columbia. The eyes of the nation will be on this game.

And, perhaps even more, Missouri has a chance to take down the mighty Oklahoma Sooners at their peak. Under Pinkel, Missouri has not defeated Oklahoma or Texas, who have combined to win eight of the last 10 Big 12 titles. Mizzou finished 12-2 and No. 4 in the nation in 2007, but both losses were to the Sooners. This would be a breakthrough win.

12th-year coach Bob Stoops has rolled up a 123-29 record, an 80-17 mark against Big 12 competition, and six conference titles in the last 10 years, plus a national title in 2000. The sign in the Oklahoma locker room reads, “No excuses, win the Big 12.”

With that record of success, it’s perhaps not surprising that Pinkel and Mizzou have played Elmer Fudd to Stoops’ and Oklahoma’s Bugs Bunny: always chasing, never catching. Mizzou has lost 19 of 20 to Oklahoma, and Pinkel is 0-6 vs. Stoops.

Fortunately, if my childhood memory serves me, Fudd did defeat Bugs once, in the “What’s Opera, Doc?” episode. It’s a parody of an opera, and, as Richard Wagner’s classic “The Valkyrie” plays in the background, Fudd calls on typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, smog (bizarrely) and lightning, which strikes down Bugs. (Cartoons were different then; but don’t worry, Bugs breaks character and lifts his head at the end, saying, “Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?”). It’s a classic, ranked as the No. 1 cartoon of all time by a fairly authoritative 1994 book on cartoons.

And if Fudd can defeat his longtime nemesis, then the Tigers can defeat the Sooners. Tiger fans and players have skyrocketing confidence. The Missouri crowd will be roaring for their Tigers. Mizzou has a strong defense, which is critical for beating the big boys.

This Missouri team doesn't have any great, great players, but it has several good ones, Pinkel says. It's a fun team to root for. It's a team on the brink of something big. This could be an epic win. Time to get excited.

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And now, for those of you who enjoy ancient cartoons, here is the aforementioned clip of Bugs and Fudd. The action starts about the 0:47 mark, when Bugs' fairly obvious disguise falls off.

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