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What If...Mizzou had already joined the Big Ten (2008-09)

Alright, time to wrap this series up ... I think we've already reached our primary conclusion (good seasons = better in Big Ten/16, bad seasons  = worse), but we've got two more seasons to go.

Part One: Intro
Part Two: 1996-99
Part Three: 2000-02
Part Four: Reintroduction & 2003
Part Five: 2004-06
Part Six: 2007

So one thing I always find interesting in thinking about the 2008 season is that, from a statistical standpoint, Mizzou ranked just about the same in 2008 as they did in 2007 -- they ranked 10th in my S&P+ measure in both seasons -- but the schedule got a lot more difficult, leading (in part) to a two-game drop in the overall record.  Does that drop still happen in Alternate 2008 (when Mizzou is coming off of either a national title game appearance or the most unexpected national title since at least Tennessee 1998, and maybe Georgia Tech 1990)?  Let's dive right in.


Preseason Rankings:
#2 Ohio State (East)
#4 Missouri (West)
#13 Wisconsin (West)
#20 Illinois (West)
#22 Penn State (East)
#25 Pittsburgh (East)

After last season's #1 vs #2 showdown in the Big Ten title game, it surprises nobody that both Ohio State and Missouri start the season in the top four.  They have some company in the Top 25 -- after a down season overall for the conference (despite the 1-vs-2 thing), four other teams squeeze into the preseason rankings.  Plus, both Iowa and Nebraska are about to bounce back in a major way.

2008 Schedule

8/30: vs Kansas (in Kansas City)
9/6: Nevada
9/13: Buffalo
9/20: Pittsburgh
9/27: at Purdue
10/4: at Nebraska
10/25: at Minnesota
11/1: at Michigan State
11/8: Wisconsin
11/22: at Indiana
11/29: Illinois

vs #14 Kansas

We can once again talk about the differences in what may have happened if this game were at the beginning of the season instead of the end -- the weather is better, Mizzou's offensive mojo isn't slipping (strangely, the stats don't care much for mojo), etc. -- but again, I am keeping known results as much the same as possible.

God ... think of how rough this would have been.  Mizzou fans have spent the entire offseason hoping they can make another title run in 2008, the senior season for Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, William Moore, etc. ... and then they go out and lay a first-half egg and fall behind.  They surge ahead in the second half, but a worn out defense can't hold on, and Mizzou falls in devastating fashion.  They start 0-1 for the fourth time in six seasons.

Let's just move on.

#14 Kansas 40, #4 Mizzou 37


Mizzou falls out of the Top 10, but Kansas is well-respected enough that the poll damage is as minimal as possible.  They return to Columbia for a tricky home opener against an explosive Nevada team, with a shaky crowd in the stands.  Of course, the shakiness doesn't last long, as Mizzou unleashes perhaps their single best offensive performance ever.  This was just a stunningly efficient display.

#12 Mizzou 69, Nevada 17


Fumbles mar Mizzou's effort in this one, but they still win easily and will start conference play 2-1 but still in the top ten.

#9 Mizzou 42, Buffalo 21


LeSean McCoy and Larod Stephens-Howling were very good and led Pittsburgh to nine wins in Real 2008, and though Mizzou's rush defense was stout, we'll say they have enough success to keep this one in doubt.  More fumbles and stumbles keep Mizzou from getting going completely, but they do win.  The aura of invincibility ("Five games with no three-and-out!") is not there, but Mizzou's still 3-1.

#7 Mizzou 24, Pittsburgh 21

at Purdue

A dicey first half leaves Mizzou tied at 14-14, but they finally begin to get going in the third quarter, posting a big score and finally dropping hints that they're ready to get rolling.

#7 Mizzou 42, Purdue 27

at Nebraska

Yeah, this happened ... and it was wonderful.

#6 Mizzou 52, Nebraska 17


If there's an equivalent to the OSU game on this year's schedule, it would have to be the Iowa game, falling the week after Nebraska.  The Hawkeyes bounced back to nine wins in 2008, and they and their rough-and-tumble defense would have been a difficult matchup for Daniel and the Mizzou offense.  The numbers say Mizzou holds on by the skin of their teeth (we'll say the fourth-quarter comeback actually works), so we'll go with that ... but this one would have been nerve-wracking.

#6 Mizzou 27, Iowa 26

at #25 Minnesota

Mizzou is 6-1, they've handled a couple of tight tests, and now they're ready to take on the less-impressive part of the schedule.  First up, a Minnesota team that managed a fast start to the season (due seemingly to smoke and mirrors).  They play well in Mizzou's final game in the Metrodome, but the Tigers' offense is untouchable early and coasts late.  Mizzou moves to 7-1.  They have now won 17 straight conference games.

#5 Mizzou 40, #25 Minnesota 24

at #22 Michigan State

Eighteen straight.  Another tight one, this time against a surging Michigan State squad that would soon fall apart in November.

#5 Mizzou 33, #22 Michigan State 27


Mizzou is two games up on both Iowa and Nebraska with three games remaining, so a win over Wisconsin would clinch a second straight West title (they would clearly own any tiebreaker).  Consider it done.  Against a strangely pathetic Wisconsin defense, Mizzou does not struggle.  Make it a staggering 19 straight conference wins.

#4 Mizzou 40, Wisconsin 20

at Indiana


#4 Mizzou 51, Indiana 28


And against a fading Illinois team, make it an even 21 straight.

#4 Mizzou 52, Illinois 38

Heading into Championship Week, here is the BCS Top Six:

1. Alabama (12-0)
2. Penn State (12-0 -- no Iowa on the schedule, no loss)
3. Florida (11-1)
4. Missouri (11-1)
5. Texas (11-1 -- we'll say they played at Texas Tech in non-conference play, eh?)
6. Oklahoma (11-1 -- if Texas is in the Pac-14, they probably get the strength of schedule edge)

Teams 3-6 are basically tied, so Championship Week performance will be key.  It would appear that the winners of the SEC and Big Ten/16 are the most well-positioned to make the national title game, but style points could come into play.

2008 Big Ten(16) Standings
Missouri 9-0 11-1 Penn State 9-0 12-0
Iowa 6-3 9-3 Ohio State 8-1 10-2
Nebraska 6-3 8-4 Rutgers 7-2 7-5
Wisconsin 4-5 7-5 Pittsburgh 5-4 7-5
Illinois 4-5 6-6 Northwestern 4-5 7-5
Minnesota 3-6 6-6 Michigan State 4-5 6-6
Purdue 1-8 2-10 Michigan 2-7 3-9
Indiana 0-9 1-11 Syracuse 0-9 2-10

A record twelve conference teams are bowl eligible this time around.  While Mizzou ran away with the West, the East was a rather intriguing race.  Penn State's 13-6 win over Ohio State and 21-6 win over Rutgers (who surged in conference play after a wretched September) made the difference.  Meanwhile, Illinois sneaks into a bowl game, thanks to the presence of both Indiana, Syracuse, and a fading Purdue on the schedule, plus an upset win over Iowa.

Big Ten Championship
#1 Penn State 35, #4 Missouri 21

And the conference win streak ends at 21.  This was really a damn fine Nittany Lion team, and Mizzou ran out of gas at the end of the season.  Mizzou won't be playing for a national title for the second straight year, but they will be playing in their first Rose Bowl and their first Los Angeles bowl game since the 1924 Los Angeles Christmas Festival, so that's something, right?


BCS Championship: #2 Florida 30, #1 Penn State 17
Rose: #6 USC 41, #7 Missouri 20
Capital One: #11 Ohio State 27, #15 Georgia 21
Outback: #16 Iowa 31, South Carolina 10
Alamo: #25 Nebraska 42, Kansas 35
Sun: Oregon State 17, Rutgers 16
Music City: Pittsburgh 10, Vanderbilt 0
Emerald: California 35, Wisconsin 24
Insight: Northwestern 29, Colorado State 18
Motor City: Michigan State 41, Central Michigan 31
Independence: Illinois 21, Louisiana Tech 17

Heading into the Rose Bowl on the evening of January 1, the Big Ten/16 has gone a wonderful 7-2 in bowls, but they don't fare well in the two highest-profile games.  Mizzou's secondary probably wouldn't have been able to handle Mark Sanchez, Damian Williams, Patrick Turner, etc., and the 2008 season would have ended with two straight losses.  Depending on the scenario (i.e. whether Mizzou won the national title the year before, since I gave you options), Chase Daniel's three years as a starter produced either a 34-7 or 33-8 record (in real life, it was 30-11), a national title game appearance/win, and a Heisman runner-up finish.  Not bad.


With extra wins in their pocket from the 2007 and 2008 seasons, do we think Mizzou gets a charity spot in the 2009 preseason Top 25?  And does the even further national prominence lead to a few extra high-profile signees (Jheranie Boyd? Terry Hawthorne? Stepfan Taylor? Kevin Brent? Bryce Brown? LaMichael James? Chris Harper? All had Mizzou offers, and many visited Columbia.)?  No idea, but we'll conservatively say no and no.  Again, it's fun to think about, however.

Preseason Rankings:
#6 Penn State (East)
#7 Ohio State (East)
#22 Iowa (West)
#24 Nebraska (West)

The Blaine Gabbert-led Tigers face an early schedule that keeps them away from home for the most part.

2009 Schedule

9/5: vs Kansas (in Kansas City)
9/12: Bowling Green
9/19: at Nevada
9/26: at Syracuse
10/8: Nebraska
10/17: at Iowa
10/24: Penn State
10/31: Minnesota
11/7: at Wisconsin
11/14: Purdue
11/21: Indiana
11/28: at Illinois

Only four of Mizzou's opponents are ranked to start the season, so it seems like a reasonably manageable slate, aside from the Nebraska-Iowa-PSU stretch in October.

vs #25 Kansas

It was fun starting Blaine Gabbert's career with a romp over Illinois, but this would have been an EHHHHHPIC start, no?  Danario breaks into the national spotlight with his duel with Dezmon Briscoe, Blaine Gabbert's arm and legs look good, and Mizzou knocks off Kansas and moves back into the Top 25.

Mizzou 41, #25 Kansas 39

Bowling Green

No matter who Gabbert defeats in the opener, he still struggles mightily with Bowling Green's junk defenses.  Mizzou survives, however.

#24 Mizzou 27, Bowling Green 20

at Nevada

And they survive this one too and are now either 31-3 or 30-4 since mid-November 2006.

#25 Mizzou 31, Nevada 21

at Syracuse

Yikes. Doug Marrone almost pulls a big upset in his first month of games, but thanks to clutch plays by Danario Alexander and Derrick Washington, Mizzou holds on.  They're now 4-0, having won their games by a combined 22 points.

#20 Mizzou 24, Syracuse 21

#21 Nebraska

I was sooooooooo tempted to whip out a "In Alternate 2009, Mizzou doesn't agree to move this game to Thursday night, they don't play in a monsoon, Gabbert miraculously doesn't injure his ankle on a dry field, and Mizzou wins" trump card here, but ... well, I already gave Mizzou a longer glimpse at a national title in 2007 ... what more do you want from me??  This one still happens, and it wrecks Mizzou's season just the same as in Real 2009.

#21 Nebraska 27, #18 Mizzou 12

at #11 Iowa

Not a good time to travel to Iowa City ... not with a one-legged QB.  Danario breaks a long touchdown to get Mizzou on the scoreboard, but that's about it.

#11 Iowa 24, Mizzou 7

#7 Penn State

And playing the role of Texas ... Penn State! They crushed Mizzou's title dreams in 2008, and they just crush Mizzou in Columbia in 2009.

#7 Penn State 31, Mizzou 12


Now begins the rehabilitation of the season.  Mizzou has fallen from 4-0 to 4-3 and welcomes Minnesota to Columbia for Homecoming at Ol' Mizzou.  They don't play tremendously well, but a win is a win.  They'll have a chance to get back to .500 in conference with a trip to Madison ...

Mizzou 29, Minnesota 17

at #24 Wisconsin

... but Wisconsin has bounced back quite well in 2009, and while it's a tight game when "Jump Around" plays at Camp Randall (beginning of fourth quarter), Wisconsin pulls away by scoring on a pair of long, jarring passes.  Mizzou is just 5-4 heading into the second weekend of November.

#24 Wisconsin 42, Mizzou 30


Purdue was a much improved team in November, but despite Mizzou's home struggles in Real 2009, we'll say they've got enough juice to hold onto the win.

Mizzou 27, Purdue 21


It's nice always ending the season with Indiana and Illinois, eh?  You always get hot in late-November.

Mizzou 34, Indiana 17

at Illinois

Honestly, with the way Illinois finished the season (giving up 102 points to Cincinnati and Fresno State), this one could have gotten severely out of hand, but we'll be nice and keep Mizzou in the 30s.

Mizzou 34, Illinois 9

After a shaky 5-4 start, Mizzou finishes by winning three straight and claiming another Music City Bowl bid as their reward.

2009 Big Ten(16) Standings
Nebraska 8-1 10-2 Ohio State 9-0 11-1
Iowa 8-1 11-1 Penn State 8-1 11-1
Wisconsin 6-3 9-3 Pittsburgh 6-3 8-4
Missouri 5-4 8-4 Michigan State 6-3 7-5
Minnesota 3-6 5-7 Northwestern 3-6 6-6
Purdue 2-7 3-9 Rutgers 2-7 5-7
Illinois 2-7 3-9 Syracuse 2-7 4-8
Indiana 1-8 3-9 Michigan 1-8 4-8

A 1-point win in Lincoln gives Nebraska the West title over Iowa (though I was tempted to go with "NU turns it over eight times and gives Iowa the win" there), meaning we've got the most offensively challenged Big Ten title game ever on the horizon.  And while Mizzou's good seasons have benefited from plenty of easy wins over the likes of Indiana and Illinois, Penn State has benefited too -- they're now 35-4 in the last four seasons.

And yes, Michigan goes 1-8.   Thank goodness for that home game against Syracuse.

Big Ten Championship
#9 Ohio State 9, #10 Nebraska 8



Rose: #7 Ohio State 26, #9 Oregon 17
Fiesta: #6 TCU 23, #5 Penn State 16
Capital One: #13 LSU 17, #16 Nebraska 16
Outback: #11 Iowa 33, Auburn 24
Alamo: #18 Wisconsin 29, Texas Tech 27
Sun: #24 Pittsburgh 34, #21 Stanford 28
Music City: Kentucky 27, Missouri 26
Emerald: #23 USC 20, Michigan State 17
Insight: Northwestern 17, Iowa State 10

For the first time since 2004, the Big Ten doesn't have a team in the national title game (it was Penn State in 2005, Ohio State in 2006, Mizzou in 2007 and Penn State in 2008), but that's alright -- the conference champion actually goes out a winner this way, with tOSU doing the deed in the Rose Bowl.  Meanwhile, Mizzou fares much better against a normal Kentucky offense (they don't break out the Navy triple option ... though they probably should) but falls short.  And while LSU is projected to beat Nebraska, I was tempted to somewhat apply what actually happened in their bowl games, which would have given NU about a 17-point win.  But screw that.

So here's a summary of this series of posts, which has now stretched from mid-December through the first week of May:

  • 1996: 5-6 (2-6)
    Big Ten Championship: Ohio State 35, Iowa 6
  • 1997: 7-5 (5-3) - lose to #16 Arizona State in Sun Bowl
    Big Ten Championship: Michigan 42, Iowa 14
  • 1998: 9-3 (5-3) - beat #3 Kansas State in Alamo Bowl
    Big Ten Championship: Ohio State 31, Penn State 20
  • 1999: 5-6 (3-5)
    Big Ten Championship: Penn State 24, Michigan State 21
  • 2000: 2-9 (1-7)
    Big Ten Championship: Michigan 28, Purdue 23
  • 2001: 3-8 (1-7)
    Big Ten Championship: Illinois 30, Ohio State 28
  • 2002: 8-5 (5-3) - lose to #14 Colorado in Alamo Bowl
    Big Ten Championship: Ohio State 23, Iowa 13
  • 2003: 8-5 (5-4) - beat Colorado State in the San Francisco Bowl
    Big Ten Championship: Michigan 31, Purdue 6
  • 2004: 5-7 (3-6)
    Big Ten Championship: Iowa 23, Michigan 17
  • 2005: 7-6 (4-5) - beat Akron in the Motor City Bowl
    Big Ten Championship: Penn State 31, Wisconsin 14
  • 2006: 9-4 (5-4) - beat Kentucky in the Music City Bowl
    Big Ten Championship: Ohio State 28, Wisconsin 3
  • 2007: either 14-0 (9-0) or 13-1 (9-0) - either beat or lose to LSU in the national title game -- still leaving that up to you
    Big Ten Championship: Mizzou 30, Ohio State 28
  • 2008: 11-3 (9-0) - lose to USC in the Rose Bowl
    Big Ten Championship: Penn State 35, Mizzou 21
  • 2009: 8-5 (5-4) - lose to Kentucky in the Music City Bowl
    Big Ten Championship: Ohio State 9, Nebraska 8

So that's it with the What If's for now ... unless I come up with another fun scenario.