With so many weapons coming back on offense, you could see the rationale behind the thought process that Nebraska would be significantly better than it was last season. Of course, they lost their two-year starter, Zac Taylor, who was last year's Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.
Missouri doesn't have that problem, junior Chase Daniel coming off a monster season, ending the year with school records in passing touchdowns (28), passing yards (3,527) and total offense (3,906), among others.
Also, Nebraska lost four defensive linemen, who between them had 56 games of starting experience last year and they bring back one (Ndamukong Suh) who has started once.
Missouri doesn't have that problem either, as they did lose five players on the defensive from with a total of 28 starts. But they bring back seven others who have started between them, 24 games in 2006.
Considering the supposed strengths of each side of the ball for both teams, it's probably logic that steers the media the way they voted. On paper Missouri just looks like the team.
You would imagine the Husker head coach didn't agree. "Well, my understanding is that the Big 12 writers essentially pick the team to win the division predicated on a number of factors," he said. "And the first factor is the quarterback. Since they ( Missouri ) have a starting quarterback that's established in their program that's been productive, I can see where that's going.
"Personally, no, I don't agree with it."
If you were just to look at the statistics, that would give you even more ammunition in validating the Tigers as the top dog in the North. The finished second in the conference in total offense, averaging 425.6 yards per game. Nebraska finished just behind them, averaging 414.6. And even in the category of defense, where neither was stellar last season, Missouri again outranked Nebraska , ranking third in the conference, allowing 320.2 yards per game, while Nebraska ranked fifth allowing 331.9.
That's all well and good, and experience can be key, but for some the most telling statistic was what happened last year when the two teams actually met. "We beat them last year, but I guess people seem to think they have an edge on us this year," senior linebacker Bo Ruud said. "I don't really understand it, but it doesn't really matter. The game is won on the field, not doing a bunch of talking. Our talk comes out of our play."
Another senior had a similar notion, but found the whole scenario of who is supposed to win, quite amusing. "In this day and age, everyone has an opinion, everyone has a blog and everyone has something they want to put their thoughts to," tight end J.B. Phillips said. "In the end, it's us out there playing the game. It's us who have to put on the pads and we're the ones who have to win.
"Even with the media picking us second, I looked over the last 11 years and
they have gotten five right and six wrong. They're not even batting five
hundred, so if I was a
gambling man, I wouldn't put a lot of stock in that."
The media doesn't have the track record, but the numbers do favor the Tigers. They return the most prolific tandem at tight end, the dynamic duo teaming up to catch 111 passes for 1,149 yards, while scoring14 touchdowns. You could say Nebraska doesn't even have a legit tight end as of yet, and this is again, year four of Callahan's rein.
Yes, Nebraska brings back four linebackers who have starting experience. And the secondary could be as deep as it has ever been, two seniors starting at cornerback, one at safety and if Zack Bowman, another senior coming off an injury, can get healthy, this unit could actually have depth.
No matter how you want to tear it down, though, and interpret numbers in a variety of ways, when it comes to experience at positions considered the strength of each team, Missouri has the advantage.
Oh, and then there is that little thing about the last two trips to Columbia , both resulting in apocalyptic implosions, the Huskers losing each 41-24. Those were night games and this up-coming will be as well.
Put it all into the mix and you have a Husker team ripe for picking on and a Tiger team right for picking to win.
Not according to Terrence Nunn, one of four returning starters at wideout last season. He doesn't care what the numbers or anyone else says.
"The media isn't always right, and we are the ones that win or lose it on the field," he said. "Players decide who wins and loses. You figure out who is the best when you step on that field."