Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mizzou, Nebraska Showdown is Last in Series

When Missouri faces the Cornhuskers of Nebraska today in Lincoln, it will be the end of a rivalry that has become quite good in the last few years. Yes, this will be the last battle for the Victory Bell. The MU-NU Rivalry, and yes it is a rivalry - probably the biggest for Missouri given the current state of the Kansas Program - is the second oldest in the Conference (behind MU-KU), and the third oldest west if the Mississippi.

It has been played 103 times, not counting today's contest. For most of its years, it has actually been a pretty good rivalry. It is hard for people alive today to realize this, but the 80's and 90's are the only decades that Nebraska dominated (winning 24 straight between 1979 and 2002), and Missouri has won 4 of the last 7, including the last meeting in Lincoln by a dominating score of 52-17.

Nebraska was also the opponent for one of Missouri's infamous losses. The "Flea Kicker" game as it became known, crushed Missouri's hopes of ending Nebraska's then 18 game winning streak in 1997 (I remember EXACTLY where I was when that play happened). The game was sent to overtime in the final seconds on a bizarre play in which a Nebraska player kicked (intentionally? can you say 15 yard penalty?) the ball up in the air and was caught on a diving reception in the endzone.

Today's game not only has significance as the final in a long rivalry, but is also important because of it's implications on the Big 12 North Standings. If Missouri wins, they have essentially won the North, if Nebraska wins, they are put in the driver's seat in the North. This game also has National Title implications. Missouri is the final unbeaten team, and presumably the final Big 12 team that would have Championship aspirations for this season. Really, the Tigers have never played in a bigger game.

Missouri must once again run the ball effectively, and force Nebraska to throw. If they have some success in both of these areas, or a lot of success in one of them, they will win. I think the Tigers pull out a close one 24-23.

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