As others have done already, and many more will do before it's done, I have to weigh in on why this game is such a big deal. It is, after all, just October. Everybody knows the big games are the ones played in November and beyond, right? That's where seasons are made and lost. September is the warmup, October is the setup and November is when it matters. Right?
Hey to a point, that's true. Remember 2007? Of course you do. I, among many others, dubbed it "The November to Remember" before it had even started. In fact, the first time I used it was at the end of the highlight video against Iowa State when I put the bump on there of "And now for a November to Remember." As if I'd known it was coming, the very next week against Colorado the FSN announcer Joel Meyers said during the pre-game that until the Tigers stepped up in November, nobody would remember them.
Well they stepped up. And people remember that 2007 team.
But that was a November game. Why is this one such a big deal?This one isn't a big deal because of what it means to our season. In fact, win or lose, this game means almost nothing as to the result of our season. Lose this game, we still control our own destiny to win the Big 12 North for the last time. Lose this game, we still control our own destiny to win the last Big 12 Championship Game (assuming we never re-expand to 12 teams). Heck, even if we lose this game we're still completely in the picture for the National Title hunt. Don't believe me? Think back to 2007 again. We were 5-0, ranked #11, and facing Oklahoma. Sounds pretty familiar, right? We lost that game and were still 30 minutes of football away from playing for the National Title.
So, again, what's the big deal? This is just another game. The most important game to this season is next week in Lincoln. Lose that, and our season goals take MAJOR hits.
The reason this game is a big deal is because it's so much bigger than this season. Missouri has had good seasons before. We had a great season in 2007, we had a good season in 2008. 2006 and 2009 were both pretty good seasons. 2003 was a pretty good season. Missouri isn't thought of as a team that can't or doesn't have good seasons. But we're not viewed as a good program yet. We're still an also-ran, an after-thought, a mid-level team with mid-level talent that nobody takes that seriously.
Mizzou wants to be taken seriously, for the long-term? You have to win this game to do that. It all starts on Saturday, October 23, 2010. This is it. This is where the line in the sand gets drawn and Mizzou says "We belong here." This is where the Tigers' growl gets more fierce, more feared, more respected and more serious. Oklahoma is one of the flagship programs in all of college football. You hear someone mention Oklahoma, and visions of football greats dance through your mind. We're not just playing the 2010 version of Oklahoma on Saturday, we're playing against the memories of their 150 consensus All-Americans. We're playing against the memories of their 5 Heisman Trophy winners. We're playing against the memories of the 17 players they've put into the College Football Hall of Fame. Those memories aren't going to help them win, but they represent just how big of a hurdle lies before the 2010 Missouri Tigers. Lose, and it's just another loss; something we've done to Oklahoma time and again. There won't be much shock. There shouldn't be much anguish. There won't be anybody talking about Missouri, because it won't be a failure to lose this game.
But it would be a missed opportunity. Win, and everyone is talking about Missouri. Win, and suddenly everyone who's ever said "Gary Pinkel can't win the big games" or "Missouri will always be second fiddle to Oklahoma and Texas" has to take that back. Win, and instead of everyone only knowing who Missouri's quarterback is you'll all of a sudden see people being aware of Zaviar Gooden, Michael Egnew, Kenji Jackson and Will Ebner. On a NATIONAL SCALE!
Missouri has been presented with their biggest opportunity in 3 years, and has been given the biggest stage possible to do it on. No amount of hyperbole can exaggerate what Saturday can be. It's the kind of matchup, the kind of environment, that kids pretend they're in playing
"smear the queer" "kill-the-guy-with-the-ball" on their parents' lawn when they're 9 years old. "I'm Chase Daniel!" "I'm Jeremy Maclin!" "I'm Sean Weatherspoon!" This Tigers team has a chance to announce who they are in a voice heard by the entire country on Saturday. Win or lose, this season doesn't change much. Win, and our program takes an immeasurable leap forward. Win and people won't just think of Missouri and say "Oh yeah, that team in 2007 was really good." They'll just simply have to say "Missouri is really good."
That's why this game is such a big deal. And I will be there. And I can't wait any longer.