There are a lot of firsts for the 2010 Mizzou football team. Things that the clubs that featured Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Sean Weatherspoon never did. Those teams never started 7-0 like this one has. In fact, this is Mizzou’s first 7-0 start since 1960. Those teams never beat Oklahoma (Saturday’s win was Gary Pinkel’s first against the Sooners) and those teams never played defense like this group.
Heading into the Oklahoma game, the Tigers were second in the country in scoring defense, allowing eleven points a game. Yes, they did allow 27, but they also were able to grab key takeaways (interceptions by Aldon Smith and Xavier Gooden). Smith’s set up a Tiger score, and Gooden’s prevented an Oklahoma score.
Back in 2007, a would be end zone interception by Pig Brown was lost in the sun and dropped…a turnover that would have prevented a score. Oklahoma scored on the next play, and rolled to a victory over the Tigers. This time, Mizzou was making the plays to win games. Their playmakers, guys like A. Smith, Brad Madison, Gooden, Carl Gettis and Kenji Jackson, are more plentiful than their predecessors. And, this Mizzou squad can overcome key injuries, like the one suffered by middle linebacker Luke Lambert (with quality depth like Will Ebner).
Whether it’s a key special teams play, like Gahn McGaffie’s kickoff return for a score, Jerrell Jackson’s spectacular spin move to score a touchdown, or a beautiful hook-and-lateral to set up a score…Mizzou made the plays.
Their talent on offense isn’t what it was three years ago. When you have two All-American tight ends in Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, NFL receivers in Maclin, Danario Alexander and Will Franklin, plus superb “bit” players like Tommy Saunders, Jered Perry and Jason Ray, you can outscore anyone. But quarterback Blaine Gabbert, a four-deep rotation of running backs, a very good tight end and another good crop of receivers certainly give the 2010 team enough firepower to outscore anyone.
But this OVERALL club is better. Mizzou has never won a national championship, although that ’07 crew was one win away from playing for it. But Missouri fans can rightfully ask “why not us?” about this team. They’re talented, they play a winning style, and we know they can play the best teams at a high level. The next two weeks, at Nebraska and at Texas Tech, will tell the story. But it’s definitely reasonable for Tiger fans to dream of winning it all.