The game of the year? - NU vs Mizzou

ESPN Gameday isn't going to be there. There hasn't been anyone anticipating this game for weeks. For all intents and purposes, outside of Mizzou & NU fans, this game means nothing at all. Well, it won't go down as a game of any major proportions, but for each, this game is huge. This game will decide for both if there season only gets worse or for once, one of them finds a ray of light. Yeah, there ya go. Let's make the t-shirts right now: "Missouri vs. Nebraska – how to put lipstick on a pig".

Any spines tingling out there as they wait for the Tigers vs the Huskers? Anyone have beads of sweat across their brow in anticipation?

If anyone fits that, it's probably head coach, Gary Pinkel as unlike the coach of his opponent, he doesn't have the fallback excuse that this is his first year at the helm.

Over the last couple of weeks, the frenzy down at Mizzou has been one of play-calling, players not getting it done and a team possibly in disarray. A player suspended for openly questioning the head coach and 2 straight losses in conference play.

At Nebraska, the frenzy has been over play-calling, players not getting it done and a team possibly in disarray, but most of this has to do with the other side of the ball. The defense for Nebraska has been anything but solid, the Huskers coming off a woeful performance down in Manhattan where Nebraska missed a reported 33 tackles for a total of 212 yards.

Conversely, Missouri's defense actually leads the entire conference in fewest yards allowed, the Tigers the only team in the Big XII giving up less than 2,000 yards on the year.

The story for Missouri hasn't been in stopping people from moving the ball, but moving the ball themselves and more importantly, what in the heck is wrong with Brad Smith.

The freshmen phenom came out of the gate as a young lad, screaming to the top of the charts as best newcomer in the country. Over 1,000 yards rushing his first year, over 2,000 yards in the air, the question wasn't about if Smith was going to be good, but just how good could he be.

Unfortunately for Smith, while time should have given him experience to be better, it apparently hasn't translated to the coaches utilizing him as they did his debut season.

Smith isn't a drop-back QB. No surprise there, but as the super versatile player has continued his career at Missouri, the intent it would seem is to make him one before his time is done.

Pass attempts up, rushing attempts down and that translates to a team that ranks 8th in the conference in points scored, the Tigers only scoring over 20 points on one conference foe: Baylor.

It's not wine and roses for Nebraska on that side either, but their saving grace has been that as bad as they have been, the defense's recent performances have taken the scope all but off the beleaguered group, people throwing this season off to the same reasons last season was considered a wash, a QB that didn't fit the system and an offense having to try and find its way.

Point of fact that while Missouri has only scored above 20 against one conference foe, Nebraska has scored more than that against 2. The almost automatic scoring explosion that you expect against Baylor and 21 against the Wildcats of KSU.

Oh, and Kansas State is 1-3 in conference play.

Is this North division reminding anyone of the national league central division over the years in major league baseball? You don't have to be good to win the division, only not really bad.

Hell of a way to sell this game, eh? That's the thing though, you can't sell it and again, only Missouri and Nebraska fans truly care.

The thing is, the players care or they had better, because both need this game to survive.

For Missouri, it will be to see if they can get a running-game going and considering their recent history, they will try and do it with anyone other than Brad Smith.

For Nebraska, they need to get that running game going, if only to keep the pass attempts down, thus the chances for interceptions diminished.

And, the Huskers had better figure out how to tackle or no matter what Missouri does, it won't matter in the end. They miss another 33 tackles in this game, the "blackshirts" might find a different color attached to a nickname for a unit that has been one of the main prides for the rabid red fan-base over the years.

Yeah, I know, I'm not really selling this as some epic game. Well, that's because it's not. It has no national implications, the winner of this game could end up the eventual victim of the Sooners in the Big XII title game and neither has been all that pretty to watch.

It doesn't matter what we think, however, because and just so I can try and do something to sell this game for what it is, this is an absolute must-win. If either wins, life is better, not great, but better with hopes springing eternal for the rest of the conference year. For the loser though, it's yet another black Sunday following, the papers littered with speculation about this and that and people wondering if this team has any heart.

There is one thing that both teams should have aplenty this Saturday and that is fire. Energy, drive, fervor, passion, whatever you want to call it, both should be as intense as intense can be. It's all or nothing in this one and if a team can't get up for a game with so much on the line, there's no get up in them at all.

Missouri is favored by two points in this game and I have to say that's probably not a bad pick. I will say that for myself though, I will go with Nebraska to win this game.

I don't have any great reasoning here. No elaborate descriptions of advantages in formations, schemes, shifts that cause defenses angst in trying to adjust. I have no analysis that tells you statistically and theoretically that the Huskers have the ultimate advantage in the end.

It's at home, Nebraska needs this win and the Husker defense should be the most ticked off unit in the entire country thjs weekend. They know what the papers have said after record-setting and humiliating losses. Imagine what they will say if the defense tanks once more.

The players don't care though, because this is all about them. Their pride, their image to each other and their apathy towards the fact that they are in such a position at all.

Yep, it's a pretty flimsy reason to pick a team, but let's look at the season for either squad. The whole darn thing is flimsy, so this pick isn't predictive, it's reflective of a year learning and possibly forgetting a few things as well.

It's Missouri vs. Nebraska – a chance at redemption, where the season will turn for one or maybe for Nebraska based on last year, the slogan can be "it's payback time, Husker style".

I know, it stinks, but come on, putting lipstick on a pig isn't easy.

Nebraska 24
Missouri 21

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