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5 thoughts about the 2008 Alamo Bowl

2008 was fun. And miserable.

Big 12 Championship - Oklahoma v Missouri Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The latest game brought out of the Mizzou Network vault is the 2008 Alamo Bowl, a 30-23 Missouri win over Northwestern in overtime. It was a miserable experience for most of the 60 minutes and overtime, but it had about the most poetic ending possible.

Five thoughts about this game as we wait for Mizzou-Florida to kick off in a few hours:

1. We didn’t quite understand

I was new to the stat thing in 2008, so I didn’t have any formal S&P+ projections or anything even close. I was still recording play-by-plays by hand in 2008 — it was a big deal that I was able to do 20-25 games per week. I would get the power-conference stuff knocked out, then I would do the rest in the offseason. There were no projections and no week-to-week rankings.

If I had the resources to make projections, I’m guessing Missouri would have been projected about 10th or so heading into 2008. The Tigers ranked 10th in S&P+ (per today’s formula) — 5th on offense, 45th on defense — and returned enough of 2007’s production to offset recruiting rankings that would have otherwise dragged them down.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, ranked 6th in S&P+ in 2007 and also returned a ton. The Sooners would have definitely projected as a top-five team. Texas would have projected ahead of Missouri, given the Longhorns were 11th in 2007, returned a lot, had a great five-year history, and of course had great recruiting rankings.

Oklahoma State would have probably projected in the teens; the Cowboys were under-the-radar good in 2007 (7-6 but 16th in S&P+) and, like everybody else, returned a lot. Kansas would have projected somewhere in there, too — the Jayhawks were 17th in 2007 (yes, the easy schedule played a huge role in their going 12-1).

The Big 12 in 2007 was excellent and tremendously young. It had five teams in the S&P+ top 17, plus Texas Tech at No. 22, Nebraska at No. 27 (the Huskers were the designated “someone’s got to lose to these other good teams” squad), and Texas A&M at No. 33. Two-thirds of the conference ranked among the top 30 percent of FBS. And most of these teams were as good or better in 2008.

Since I didn’t have any ratings like this at the time, that’s not really how I remember 2007-08 at all. I don’t remember “Mizzou is a strong player in maybe the best conference in college football;” I just remember “Nebraska and Texas stink now! This is Missouri’s time to rule!”

2. Expectations change everything

Ohio State fans, coaches, and players didn’t seem to enjoy the 2015 season very much. The Buckeyes were awesome and went 12-1, but ... I think Mizzou fans can relate at least a little bit.

Ohio State entered the 2015 season as the AP's first ever unanimous top-ranked team. Almost unprecedented expectations surrounded the program. Meyer challenged his players to embrace the fact that they were the hunted in college football, and as such 2015 was decreed the year of The Grind. Unfortunately, this would become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the team and fans alike. [...]

Ohio State fans couldn’t help but to think what if. It can be argued that last year’s team was the most talented in school history. It could also be argued that last year was the least fun one-loss season in the history of sport. [...]

The dark cloud of unreasonable expectations has faded in Central Ohio. The Buckeyes are no longer chasing perfection. The Grind is over, both literally and figuratively. It's OK to enjoy Ohio State football again.

“The dark cloud of unreasonable expectations” colored everything that happened to Missouri in 2008, a team that was, for all intents and purposes, the same as it was in 2007.

  • 2007: +15.8 S&P+ rating (10th), 40.0 Adj. PPG on offense (5th), 24.2 Adj. PPG on defense (45th)
  • 2008: +15.6 S&P+ rating (10th), 39.9 Adj. PPG on offense (6th), 24.3 Adj. PPG on defense (56th)

Mizzou was basically the same team in 2008. And maybe that is, in and of itself, reason for disappointment. The Tigers were supposed to be better, after all. But they got rocked by two teams better than them (No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 4 Texas beat them by a combined 118-52), went 2-2 with two gut-wrenching, tight losses (and two double-digit wins) against other teams in the top 30 — Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Illinois — and beat everybody else.

On paper, 2008 played out about as you would expect in hindsight. But in the present tense, it was, at times, miserable. The defense seemed so much worse than it was the year before (part of that is because the defense in the second half of 2007 was far better than in the first half). The offense seemed wonky and without a rhythm at times. (I still say Chase Daniel was suffering from an injury he wouldn’t admit.)

It was fun, too, of course. Mizzou 52, Illinois 42. Mizzou 69, Nevada 17. Mizzou 58, Colorado 0. But expectations colored everything.

Really, the world around Missouri changed in 2008, and the Tigers had to get past more good teams and couldn’t. But at the time, it felt like this was Mizzou’s chance, and they blew it. The Tigers went 10-4 and won another Big 12 North title, but we were just sure 2008 was the year for something greater.

3. The ending almost stunk (but didn’t)

After dreaming of BCS bowls, Mizzou ended up in the Alamo Bowl and proceeded to play like it wanted to be anywhere else.

Mizzou's first five possessions: INT, three-and-out, field goal, INT, four-and-out. Northwestern's defense ranked 40th in Def. S&P+ that year, but the Tigers were making the Wildcat defense look like a top-10 unit. And when Jeremy Maclin lined up to field a punt with a minute left in the first half, Mizzou was lucky to trail only 10-3. Maclin, of course, made it 10-10 at halftime.

Mizzou led 20-16 late in the third quarter; the offense was beginning to get moving finally. But a holding penalty negated a 16-yard Maclin run, and Daniel threw yet another pick, setting NU up at the Mizzou 24. Three plays later, Northwestern led again. Jeff Wolfert tied the game with a 37-yard field goal then missed a 44-yarder at the buzzer, but Daniel-to-Maclin gave Mizzou the lead in overtime, William Moore and Sean Weatherspoon sacked C.J. Bacher, and Moore broke up a fourth-down pass to seal the win.

There was nothing pretty about this game, and we dreamed of a much greater locale. But “Daniel-to-Maclin for the win, and Moore and ‘Spoon seal the deal” was definitely the way the final game of 2008 was supposed to end.

4. “It made for a drama none of us would have or could have predicted five months ago. And when you think about the 2008 season, I'm not sure it would have been appropriate to end any other way.”

Because Rock M Nation has been around forfreakingever now, we can look back at our reactions to this game. RPT had thoughts.

5. “In the end, though, Mizzou's playmakers made plays when they had to.”

And so did I.