Mizzou 25: Elite Eight!

UPDATE: Called after a lovely 228 votes.  Daniel wins 77%-22%.  It's Daniel vs Peeler in the Final Four.

It's Elite Eight time for Mizzou 25, the tournament to decide the best, most influential, most likable Mizzou athlete of the past 25 years!

Mizzou 25 has been set up in four 8-athlete regions: the Norm Stewart Region (basketball), the Larry Smith Region (football), the Joann Rutherford Region (all sports), and the Harold "Spider" Burke Region (fan favorites).  To see where the bracket currently stands, click here.  We are to the regional finals!

Here are your Elite Eight matchups:

3/24: Melvin Booker vs Anthony Peeler (Norm Stewart Region)
3/25: Brad Smith vs Chase Daniel (Larry Smith Region)
3/26: Ben Askren vs Lindsey Hunter (Joann Rutherford Region)
3/27: Pig Brown vs Demontie Cross (Harold "Spider" Burke Region)

We should really rack up the vote totals for these matchups, so be sure to pass this along to whoever may be interested.  And if you feel like it, share why you voted the way you did in comments.  Talk about a tough vote...let's see where this one goes...it's like the chicken vs the egg here...and I feel sick thinking about voting against either one.

Brad Smith vs Chase Daniel

vs

2002-05

2005-08

Stats
  1. 2333 passing yards, 1029 rushing yards, 22 total TDs
  1. 1822 passing yards, 1310 rushing yards, 28 total TDs
  1. 2185 passing yards, 553 rushing yards, 24 total TDs
  1. 2304 passing yards, 1301 rushing yards, 29 total TDs

Record: 25-23
Bowl Wins: 1

Stats
  1. 347 passing yards, 57 rushing yards, 2 total TDs, 1 season-saving, come-from-behind win
  1. 3527 passing yards, 379 rushing yards, 32 total TDs
  1. 4306 passing yards, 253 rushing yards, 37 total TDs

Record: 27-12
Bowl Wins: 2

The Boy: I'm going to steal The Beef's line here--nobody had a more enigmatic career than Brad Smith.  When he came to Mizzou, only one QB had ever pulled of a 2000/1000 (passing/rushing yards) season.  He averaged one for his career.  If I attend Mizzou games for the next 50 years, #16 will still end up with probably 4-6 of the Top 10 most amazing plays I've ever seen.  He would slow up as he was heading out of bounds, and as the defender slowed up as well, he'd tiptoe right by them.  He would effortlessly juke out two guys converging on him from two different directions.  He was the first Mizzou QB to beat Nebraska in 25 years, and he did it twice.  He's Mizzou's career rushing leader, and oh yeah, he passed for 8600 yards as well.  Plus, the profile he earned for Mizzou over his four years was the best recruiting tool this staff had from 2003 to 2006.

And yet...Mizzou's success with him was limited.  The more teams saw him, the more they figured out how to stop him.  Whether the fault of the Mizzou coaching staff or Brad's own limitations, when it was time for Brad to become more threatening with his arm to break out of the containment teams were putting on his feet, it didn't happen.  The first two years of his career, Mizzou went 13-12.  The last two, they went 12-11.

In the 2005 Independence Bowl, however, Smith unleashed his best, most inspiring half of football, and in the process, he possibly saved the Pinkel era and set Mizzou on the course down which they're travelling today.  Down 28-7 to South Carolina late in the first half, Brad used his arm to move Mizzou down for a TD, cutting the score to an attainable 28-14 at halftime.  And then he used his feet to complete the comeback.  His 59-yard run late in the fourth quarter set up the go-ahead TD (scored by him, of course) in a 38-31 win.  You simply cannot underestimate this moment when considering the trajectory of the Mizzou program.  You just cannot.
The Boy: Chase Daniel is quite simply the realization of all the hope we’ve ever had for a Mizzou player or a Mizzou team.  We wanted Corby Jones or Brad Smith to get Heisman hype, and Daniel finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2007.  We yearned for Corby’s teams and Brad’s teams to break through that 8-win barrier and put together a memorable season with as few "What If’s" as possible...and under Daniel’s guidance, Mizzou simply went out and won 12 games in 2007, earning its first #1 ranking in 47 years in the process.

We all know the Chase Daniel story by now.  He was raised to play football.  While most kids his age were learning to drive, he was learning the intricacies of the spread offense.  Every time he went to the bathroom in his Southlake home, he was surrounded by inspirational quotes from Vince Lombardi, et al.  He was born for stardom.  And he proved himself a man of his word, staying committed to Mizzou even when Texas came calling.

If Brad Smith saved the Pinkel Era with his performance in the 2005 Independence Bowl, Chase Daniel saved the moment that saved the Pinkel Era.  With Smith strug-a-ling mightily against Iowa State and stinging from a cheap shot, Daniel entered the game with Mizzou down 10.  Two no-huddle drives later, it was tied, and Mizzou won in OT.  They wouldn't have qualified for a bowl without that win.  It was at that moment that people realized, "Hey...I sure am gonna miss Brad Smith, but I think our future's pretty bright."  (That's what I was saying, anyway...ahem.)

There's really no need to rehash much of the last two years, is there?  Almost 8500 total yards and 70 TDs?  20 wins?  A New Year's Day bowl?  A #1 ranking?  The highest expectations ever for a Mizzou team (in 2008)?  You know the story.  You're along for the ride.  This short, squatty gunslinger from Southlake has transformed the Mizzou program, and he's not done yet.

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