Tigers control their own destiny

It's actually true. Missouri can go to the conference championship if it wins the next four games. But the first one certainly won't be an easy one. Colorado might be 3-6, but the Tigers are trying their best to keep the Buffaloes in sight instead of looking down the road.

Missouri receiver Thomson Omboga could only smile.

There was so much he wanted to say. So much he could have said. Instead, Omboga, perhaps the most outspoken and candid of the Tigers, said nothing.

"We, uh," Omboga chuckled. "We're not thinking about it. We're going to take it one game at a time."

Nice try, Thomson.

The truth is eight games into the season, Missouri controls its own fate. If it wins its next four games, the Tigers will be playing at the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City. One of three two-loss teams in the Big 12 North, Missouri has already claimed a tiebreaker against Nebraska and could set itself up for a title-deciding game at Kansas State on Nov. 22.

"It's a good position to be in," Missouri quarterback Smith said.

But oh yeah, the Tigers play at Colorado on Saturday at 1:30 central time. Two-time defending North champions Colorado. The same Buffaloes that Missouri has beaten only twice in its last 18 shots.

It's hard, though, for players to escape what could be in front of them: a chance for a shot at the conference championship. And not all of the players could be as tight-lipped as Omboga.

"This is something I've been dreaming about, that after eight games we'd be in this position," sophomore cornerback Calvin Washington said. "It's motivation for us. I've been trying to pass that along to my teammates, because it's like, this is where we can be. It's up to us. There's no reason why we shouldn't be the ones playing come that time."

Yes, thing are looking up in Columbia, but it's important to remember three of the Tigers' last four opponents have been ranked at some time this season. Kansas State used to be in the top five, and Texas A&M and Colorado have both cracked the poll at various times.

"I've been in this position many times in my career, but it's a first for the players," coach Gary Pinkel said. "We're in uncharted waters. It'll be interesting to see how our players respond to it."

Pinkel has warned on several occasions this season how quickly a team can go "from the penthouse to the outhouse." The Tigers don't have to look far for an example. Their opponent Saturday has gone from division champion to, well, losing to Baylor.

The Buffaloes enter Saturday's game at 3-6 and only 1-4 in the conference, including a loss to the Bears last month. After losing 26-21 to Texas Tech last Saturday, Colorado has lost three consecutive conference games for the first time since 1984.

Its schedule certainly hasn't helped. In addition to its conference matchups, Colorado has also played No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Florida State, No. 12 Washington State and Colorado State, which was ranked 23rd when the Buffaloes played them.

"Don't let them fool you," Pinkel said. "They are still a good football team. I'm scared to death like I'm supposed to be."

At least he doesn't have to worry this week about anything Omboga said.


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