Can the season get started already?

Are you ready for some FOOOOOOOOTBALL? I know that I certainly am. Enough of the breakdowns, the predictions, the media days, the media guides, the preseason magazines, the radio talk shows, the billboards, and every other poor substitute. Let's get things rolling in Columbia!

Has there ever been a longer summer than 2004?

The anticipation of a successful football season has many Tigers fans acting a little crazy these days.

There are only so many times you can breakdown Missouri's offense and defense and wonder if the preseason predictions of a top 15 season are unrealistic. Some of the discussions I've recently been a part of lead me to believe that Missouri should be BCS bowl bound this year, while others have me convinced that we are one Brad Smith injury away from a .500 season.

Will the offense line jell in time? Will Pinkel open up the offense? Will Harrington be aggressive enough to play inside linebacker? Will Missouri be able to field a punting and kicking game that will allow all of us to keep the Maalox on the shelf?

You know what? I really don't know, and nobody else knows either.

Gary Pinkel, the guy who knows more about this team than anybody, is strung as tight as a grand piano these days. For the first time in his tenure at Missouri, Pinkel is having to deal with honest to goodness expectations for this team. Pinkel used to comment that Missouri fans were so grateful for any successes on or off the field, that he wanted them to expect more from his program.

Wish granted.

Let's face it, even with a favorable schedule this year, Missouri has several uphill psychological challenges to win the Big 12 North:

1. Remove the K-State Monkey!

Who was the last Missouri coach to beat Kansas State? I'll save you the trip to the old media guide shelf, it was Bob Stull. Far too long ago by any standard. Missouri catches the Wildcats at home this year and without a truckload of players on their roster from last year. Will that be enough to break the Snake Jinx? It had better be if Missouri wants to make a run at playing in the Big 12 Championship Game in KC later in the year.

2. Keep the Streak Alive at Nebraska!

It's one in a row and counting for Missouri v. Nebraska. The Tigers played their most inspired game of the season last year vs. the Huskers in a primetime shootout in Faurot. This year, Mizzou gets to prove to themselves that they can win on the road, and in this game, do it in a place where they haven't won since 1978. Air Nebraska has its own set of challenges right now with a new staff and new offensive and defensive schemes. This is the year for Missouri to show that 2003 wasn't a fluke built on trick plays and a rainy night. Missouri's talent is better than Nebraska's talent, straight up. The Tigers have to believe that it can happen and take care of business in a tough place to play.

3. Take Care of Business Against the Teams MU is Favored Against!

There can be no let down games vs. Iowa State, or (gulp)...Kansas this year. Period...end of story.

Good programs take care of their business against teams they should beat regardless of where the game is played. Mizzou should roll up on ISU, Kansas, Baylor and their non-conference foes.

The players report on August 8th and practice begins on August 9th. It's time to stop talking about greatness and actually go out there and achieve greatness. The pieces are in place for Missouri to have a memorable season. Now they just have to go out there and get it done.

Black & Gold Illustrated Top Stories