BRR Countdown No. 5

As we hit number 5, we move into what I call the upper echelon of the Big XII. The automatics for bowls and maybe one of the best teams you'll see. And the difference between some is minor at best, but there is a difference, those which I will point out as we now move into the best of the Big XII, starting with number 5.

This is their year. That's what people are saying. Top to bottom, offense to defense, this is their time to shine.

The Missouri Tigers have been ranked in some preseason magazines as high as eleventh in the country.

That's because the one and only Brad Smith is back and what do you know, he's going to get some healthy help on the defensive side of the ball.

Names like Mosley, Ellison and Smith - all are reasons to believe that with this newfound balance and Smith's additional year of experience, heck, who knows how good this team can do?

Yes, I still have them ranked fifth in the conference and here's why:

First, I've seen one-horse offenses come and go with the wind. They'll win most of the games they should, maybe one of the toss-ups, but invariably, when it's all said and done, that team is eventually exposed.

That leads to part of the problem with Missouri is they won't have a "quality" opponent until they've basically had to show their hand for the year. All the way until mid-October will the Tigers play until they hit the road to play Texas and that starts a pretty tough four-game stretch that will ultimately decide the Tiger's fate.

It's not the worst schedule in the world, but it's hardly a picnic for Pinkel as his group tries to better it's 8-5 record on the season.

Second and it leads back to the first a bit is that what can Missouri do this year to run the ball without having to rely totally on Brad Smith.

Smith is a phenom, talented beyond reason and incomprehensibly cool for someone still so young. Give me the choice of one current starting QB out there and at least for me, Smith is far and away the best.

He's not so good though that he can be the entire offense for Missouri and though Damien Nash could prove to be a capable back, he's an unproven back right now.

Third and this is something that I as a Nebraska fan had become unfortunately accustomed, Missouri can't win on the road. Within the conference Missouri faced on the road; Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas State - losing every single one of them.

That's not good and head coach, Gary Pinkel was really his own detractor down at media days when talking about what it takes to win on the road. ""It's all preparation." he said. " That's all it is, maintaining a high level of play and a high level of focus. That will allow you to give your best no matter what the location."

The road games this year for the Tigers are Baylor, Texas, Nebraska and Iowa State. That doesn't seem to be overly daunting with Baylor being Baylor, Iowa State coming off a dreadful year, Nebraska rebuilding offenses under new head coach Bill Callahan and Texas being coached by Mack Brown.

I think many probably would have said much of some of the teams the Tigers lost to a year before.

The bottom line for Missouri is that they lost every conference game on the road last season and this year, if they lose even two, it's going to be another disappointing debacle down at Mizzou.

That's really going to be the difference between what separates No. 5 even all the way up to No. 2 and while I would expect Missouri to be better in some areas, I don't think they will improve so dramatically on the road that it's going to help them to at North title this year.

Steve Ryan can be reached at or 402-730-5619

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