Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer – Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer – Oh, what might have been! A showdown between No. 1 and No. 2, but Oklahoma State put a damper on what still promises to be college football's featured presentation this Saturday. ESPN 'GameDay' is in town, and it's shaping up as one of those picture-perfect, Chamber of Commerce evenings in Austin, Texas (the college football capital of the world...for now).
Missouri's offensive stats are every bit as scary as Oklahoma's. In fact, the next three weeks for Texas will sound like a broken record: offensive juggernaut vs. offensive juggernaut, Heisman candidate quarterback vs. Heisman candidate quarterback. How did upstart Oklahoma State slow the Missouri bandwagon? The Cowboys brought pressure up the middle from the opening bell and QB Chase Daniel never quite found his comfort zone. This week, Texas will continue to bring pressure off the edge while interior lineman Roy Miller foregoes his dreams as a jumbo-package receiver and resumes what he does best: crushing the pocket as the defense's spiritual leader.
In fact, the difference in the defenses should be the difference in this one. Texas will actually face a worse pass defense than its own. The Tigers rank No. 113, surrendering 271 ypg through the air. Mizzou's rush defense is slightly above-average, checking in at No. 33 (109.8 ypg).
It stands to reason that a wounded Tiger is a more dangerous animal, but this is more of a must-win contest for Texas. The visitors can lose Saturday and still advance to the Big 12 Championship game. (The North has already come down to Mizzou and rival Kansas. The Jayhawks have road games at Oklahoma and Nebraska; they must also must play Texas and Texas Tech. The Birds will drop at least one, and probably two, of those games, setting-up a season-ending showdown against Mizzou at a neutral Arrowhead Stadium for the division title.)
Those worried that Texas might be running on empty following an emotional outing against the Sooners should remember that no Mack Brown-coached Texas team has lost the week after OU. And no Missouri team has ever upset a No. 1-ranked opponent. Both streaks should be preserved by midnight Saturday. Texas 48, Missouri 31.
Ross Lucksinger, Inside Texas Editor – If you thought Texas-OU was a back-and-fourth, high-scoring shootout, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Chase Daniel and the Missouri Tigers roll into Austin with one of the highest-powered offenses in the nation and an upset on their minds. But they're going to leave exactly that: upset. While the Tigers have an undeniably prolific offense, their loss to Oklahoma State was an example of how the game of football has changed.
If quarterback play is important, getting to the quarterback is doubly important.
It's the reason for the seemingly strange phenomenon that has occurred in the NFL. The pool of talented quarterbacks has steadily increased, yet the number of NFL teams with, frankly, bad starting quarterbacks has also increased. It's because of the importance of the position. Defenses are faster and the game is more complex than it used to be. It's difficult to find a passer that can handle it, but when you do, the results can be spectacular.
Just look at what the quarterbacks in the Big 12 are doing this season. They're putting up amazing numbers, but that's what happens if you let a QB who understands the game have time. Daniel, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy are exceptionally accurate, but the former two each lost last Saturday because they were not allowed to sit back and be accurate.
Such will be the case this Saturday.
The Texas D-line will be facing a different challenge in Missouri, which employs very wide line splits and sits Daniel about seven steps back. It makes it challenging to get a consistent push, but it also creates more one-on-one match-ups along the line, an environment Texas will thrive in.
Both teams will score a ton of points, but in the end, like against OU, Texas wears down the Missouri offensive line and forces Daniel to make mistakes. Texas 52, Missouri 34.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor – I proposed last week that Texas should use the "Boom Mofo" theory in order to beat Oklahoma, a strategy that is simple: rush the quarterback in a way that would at least tempt defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to once again yell "Boom Mofo" a la his infamous YouTube outburst from his Auburn days.
The theory worked so well last week that this week is simply "Boom Mofo II." To beat Missouri, Texas must rush Chase Daniel relentlessly – or at least enough to force him into a mistake or two – and that rush combined with an offense that will score 35-40 points will produce a win against the Tigers.
The Tigers were definitely exposed last week against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys proved that beating a team with such a prolific offense requires only two major components: rushing the passer and scoring points. The Longhorns can do both, and since the Tigers aren't as good as Oklahoma, logic tells you that Texas should win more convincingly this week than last.
Granted, the Tigers are embarrassed by last week's loss at home and are thus a very dangerous opponent for Texas this week. They are wounded and anxious, and more than a little urgent in their demeanor. Lose this week and not only will they lose whatever faint hope they still cling to regarding a national championship, but a Tigers' loss might very well keep them from winning even the Big 12 South. They want to win badly.
The problem is, their team is not as good as the Longhorns. Their defense is not nearly as good, their offensive line isn't as good or as deep, and their quarterback is not as good as the one Texas has under center. The Longhorns will also have an added weapon – running back Fozzy Whitaker – that they didn't have last week against the Sooners. Oh, and with the home crowd behind him, Texas kicker Justin Tucker will "boom" everything into the end zone and beyond.
A lot worse teams than Mizzou have beaten a lot better teams than Texas, but it's not going to happen here. Texas is too deep, too good and too strong of heart to lose Saturday night. Texas 42, Missouri 20.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher – While watching Missouri play Oklahoma State, I had the impression that Chase Daniel was off his game. He somehow looked a little dazed to me, maybe a bit confused, not his usual confident-bordering-on-cocky self. And when he threw a bad interception to essentially end the Tigers' hopes of a come-back victory, his third INT of the night, when the stage was set for an epic, game-winning, Heisman-like march down the field, I started thinking Missouri and their ballyhooed quarterback were over-hyped and overrated.
Then I saw Daniels' stats for the game: 39 of 52 for 390 yards and a TD, to go along with 46 net yards rushing on seven carries, and reality set in; this is a guy who is a great player, surrounded by dangerous weapons, who is basically unstoppable in terms of moving his team. But unstoppable is not unbeatable. As the Cowboys proved, if a team comes after Mizzou with confidence, hits them all night long, stays aggressive on offense, and doesn't back down, even when Daniel is racking up his yards and moving the sticks, the Tigers can be tamed. And Texas is a team more than capable of doing just that.
The OU game showed that Texas, with its own Heisman frontrunner Colt McCoy at the helm, has the offense to stay with Missouri. And the Texas defense has shown all season long that, while it may give up some big numbers in the passing game, it will not quit battling to the final whistle, and will make some big plays of its own along the way. Texas special teams' play this season has also been outstanding, and against the Sooners, were a huge factor in securing the win for the Horns. I expect they will also give Texas an advantage this Saturday night.
As I said last week in picking Texas over OU, the Texas defense this season just seems different, but the same is true for the entire team. The Longhorns have chemistry, confidence, and a coaching staff that is dynamic. Texas will enter Saturday's game the No. 1 team in the nation and favored to win, the reverse of last week in the Cotton Bowl. They will be in the same dangerous position that OU and Mizzou occupied a week ago, facing an angry underdog with everything to prove. But unlike the Sooners and the Tigers, Texas will stand up to the challenge. With a packed stadium in a Saturday-night frenzy behind them, the Horns will give up points and yards to the Tigers, but will match them point for point, yard for yard, and then some. In as wild a game as the old stadium has seen in years, the Horns will solidify their position as the nation's best team by handing Missouri its second straight defeat. Texas 45, Missouri 31.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher – The pressure of being ranked No. 1. The Sports Illustrated Jinx. Playing a back-against-the-wall national title contender. Several signs point to another nailbiter for Texas in what may be a long stretch of nailbiters when the Horns host Missouri Saturday.
The Tigers have already succumbed to the pressure of playing for No. 1 (the Saturday night loss to Oklahoma State probably cost Mizzou the top spot in the polls now occupied by Texas) as coverboys of the most recent edition of ESPN The Magazine. That's why the Tigers may have even more pressure on them this week than do the Horns; the visitor's season literally hangs in the balance after losing at home to Cowboys a few hours after Texas took care of business in the Cotton Bowl. As much as we talk about this being uncharted territory (at least recently) for the Horns having to defend a No. 1 ranking, this is equally uncharted territory for a Tigers program unaccustomed to national championship expectations, and facing the prospect of failing to meet those expectations mid-way through a season.
But while it's fun to psychoanalyze, ultimately I don't believe the mental aspect of the game will tell the tale (not this week, at least). I think it'll come down to the ability of the guys on the field to make plays, and while I like Missouri's playmakers (particularly QB Chase Daniel, WR Jeremy Maclin, RB Derrick Washington, TE Chase Coffman, who may be the best four-man combo in a league full of good ones), I like UT's depth of playmaking ability on both sides of the ball even better.
Regardless of opponent, the no-name Texas offense has proven capable of consistently moving the football and putting 35-plus points on the board. (Since Colt McCoy is now considered a Heisman front-runner, I guess this is no longer the no-name offense that began the season.) Will Muschamp's Longhorn defense is playing a physical and aggressive brand of D that is reminiscent of some of the great UT Ds of the 60s, 70s and early 80s. And, yes, this Texas team does seem to have some intangibles (read: chemistry, fire) that will be crucial Saturday evening and beyond.
I suspect we'll see the steady Texas offense score in the neighborhood of its season average, the Longhorn defense continue to surrender yards but also stiffen near the goalline and pressure Daniel into mistakes, and for the Horns to be sky-high defending a No. 1 ranking in front a rowdy DKR crowd for the first time since 1977. Texas 42, Missouri 27.
Pat Culpepper: Texas 38, Missouri 31.
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 43, Missouri 28