December 2, 2008

Notebook: Tigers know few have faith

The Oklahoma Sooners have drawn plenty of praise over the last two months. And why not? After a loss to Texas, the Sooners have won six straight games by an average score of 59.5-31. Gary Pinkel and Chase Daniel both said on Monday that the Sooners were playing as well as any team in college football. But that's about as far as Daniel wanted to take the praise.

Asked a question about the Sooner defense, the Tiger quarterback instead chose to give the assembled media his audition to become Mizzou's next sports information director.

"They're a great defensive team, but I mean, you want to talk about their guys, how about our guys?" Daniel said. "I have the stats right here. I mean, Chase Coffman has the most catches in NCAA Division One history. In the history of tight ends, he has the most catches. Derrick Washington ranks third in the Big 12 in rushing, eighth in the NCAA in scoring. Jeremy Maclin leads the NCAA in all-purpose yards at 205 yards per game. I don't think anyone's even really close to him. He's third in receiving yards. You look at Jared Perry, has 37 catches, 526 yards, averaging almost 15 yards a catch. Tommy Saunders ranks seventh all-time at Missouri with 136 receptions and tenth all time with 1,500 yards receiving. Jeff Wolfert, he's the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. And he will be. You look at their weapons? Well, I want to look at ours and I feel pretty good about what we bring to the table."

Fair enough. The Tigers have their share of firepower. But the fact remains Missouri comes into the game 9-and-3, having lost two of three against the Big 12 South and their last game of the regular season. Oklahoma is 11-and-1 and hasn't been challenged significantly since October.

The Tigers are more than a two-touchdown underdog in Saturday's Big 12 Championship game. They know not many will pick them.

"Nobody is giving us a chance. Our own family probably isn't giving us a chance," said defensive tackle Jaron Baston. "We expect that. It's always been about just our team, our family and the coaches. As long as we all believe, then everything will work out."

"We're going to have to put a chip on our shoulder," linebacker Brock Christopher added. "Every guy in that locker room has got to believe we can go beat Oklahoma."

"Not necessarily a chip, I just think that we want respect," Daniel said. "It's not going to be given to us and we've just got to go out there and get it."

That the Sooners provide the opposition could add just a tinge of motivation to Missouri. Last season, it was the Tigers that entered the game with a shot at a national championship. Following a 38-17 loss to Oklahoma, Missouri was not only out of the national title picture, but out of the BCS altogether. If the Tigers could pull the upset Saturday night, the Sooners would suffer the same fate.

"I was excited (to play Oklahoma). They took away from us a game away from the national championship, they beat us," Baston said. "You don't want to say revenge, but it would be good to go in there and do the same."

"I think more satisfaction would come from us going to the BCS," Maclin said. "I mean it would be nice to knock them out like they did to us, but I think we're playing much more for us than anything having to do with them."

Nobody may be on their side, but Daniel's message to his teammates on Sunday had nothing to do with that disrespect.

"I told the team yesterday, there's ten other teams that would die to be in our spot right now," the quarterback said. "I also told them we deserve to be here. We won the North and we're excited about the chance to play."

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