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Devil's Advocate: Will Gary Pinkel get over the Oklahoma hump?

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Here at Rock M Nation, we pride ourselves in trying to avoid/fight the mob mentality that dominates The Interwebs. All those months of skepticism at RMN about lines of thinking that are a little too easily accepted for our tastes have led me to an unintended fondness for contrarianism. Contrarian pieces on SB Nation are nothing new (the inestimable T. Kyle King penned a fantastic series titled Kyle Gets Contrary for Dawg Sports). But this summer, I'm launching a series titled "Devil's Advocate" in which, regardless of my own personal beliefs, I'll attempt to challenge some of Missouri fans' most commonly-held beliefs. Today's truth to challenge:

"Gary Pinkel will get over the Oklahoma hump by beating the Sooners"


In case you haven't heard, Gary Pinkel has never beaten Texas or Oklahoma. I say this only as a public disservice to those who have somehow managed to avoid being beaten over the head by this storyline for the last few years. But if traditional message board hubris is any indication, 2010 is the year Pinkel gets past that hump.

And the argument is at least a little bit compelling. Oklahoma comes to Faurot, where Missouri put a scare into the eventual Big 12 champ Sooners in 2006 before a dropped long TD-to-be by Chase Coffman and a phantom roughing the kicker call tilted the game in OU's favor. Missouri returns the majority of last year's team with another offseason of growth, while Oklahoma deals with several losses to graduation/the NFL Draft after a rough year by Stoops' standards.

But remember, Missouri's had a chance to get by Oklahoma (and Texas) before and failed to do it. Remember 2007 when Missouri had one of its best teams in school history and couldn't get by the same OU team that couldn't beat Colorado? How about 2008, when Missouri went from offensively unstoppable in Lincoln to offensively irrelevant in Austin? Are you feeling confident enough to say that this 2010 Missouri team is definitively good enough or to say this 2010 Oklahoma team is definitively weak enough to guarantee that this streak comes to an end?

It's not impossible, but tapping the brakes might be a worthwhile suggestion here.

Yes, Oklahoma might still be down from what they were in 2007-08, but is "down" at Oklahoma really ever THAT "down" compared to everyone else? It's wholly likely that Missouri fans see only Oklahoma's 8-5 record form 2009 and see a golden opportunity. But the win-loss numbers lose sight of how exactly that "fall" transpired. So how inevitable is Oklahoma's 2010 rebound? Doc Saturday explains:

They were unlucky last year. I don't just mean "unlucky" in the obvious, "lose two All-Americans/soon-to-be first-round draft picks before halftime of the first game" way. The Sooners were mathematically unlucky: Last month, a math-oriented Michigan fan at MGoBlog ran the numbers on fumbles, blocked kicks and other outlying harbingers of (mis)fortune and found Oklahoma was easily the unluckiest team in the country in 2009 - to the extent that, if it played the same schedule over again, even without the injuries that shelved stars Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham for the season, the Sooners could expect to improve their 8-5 record by three full games.

Oklahoma's rebound aside, lest we not forget that Missouri's date with the Sooners comes in the midst of the toughest four-game stretch Missouri has seen in years: at Texas A&M, vs. Oklahoma, at Nebraska, at Texas Tech. Is the student leadership on Missouri's current roster going to be strong enough to keep Missouri focused on the task at hand against Oklahoma when arguably the biggest game in the Big 12 North in 2010 sits just around the corner? Save for the most mentally strong team in program history in 2007, Missouri doesn't exactly have the track record for avoiding the such pitfalls (see: 2006 Iowa State, 2008 Oklahoma State, etc).

Yes, Missouri has a nice opportunity to get a crimson and cream monkey off of Gary Pinkel's back in 2010, but given the chances he had in 2007, this may not even be the best shot he's had in the last four years. As I told another blogger earlier in the offseason, Missouri has the ability to beat every team on the schedule. But having the ability and actually being able to pull off the improbable are two very different animals, so it may not be wise to prematurely assume that the Oklahoma monkey is guaranteed to hop off Mizzou's back in 2010.

Question for discussion: Will this be the best chance Missouri has had to beat Oklahoma (or Texas) in Pinkel's tenure thus far?