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MU football team cautious about North title

Sunday, November 9, 2008 | 8:35 p.m. CST; updated 9:41 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 9, 2008

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Missouri jumped two spots to No. 12 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings released this week. Oklahoma State and TCU lost, putting the teams below the Tigers. Missouri’s 41-24 win over Kansas State keeps the Tigers poised to win the Big 12 North and face the Big 12 South champion for a BCS bowl berth.



COLUMBIA — Maybe Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel really didn’t know about the scenarios. Maybe he was expecting to be asked about Missouri’s 2006 loss to Iowa State. Or maybe he was simply feigning ignorance.

Whatever the case, Daniel seemed clueless of the opportunity the Tigers have when they take the field against Iowa State next Saturday.

“What could happen?” Daniel asked.

What could happen in Ames, Iowa depends on what happens that afternoon in Lawrence, Kan.

Because Kansas lost to Nebraska this past Saturday, if the Jayhawks lose at home to Texas this week, Missouri could wrap up the Big 12 North with a win over the Cyclones.

“That’d be great,” Daniel said after having the scenario spelled out for him. “But we also know that we’ve got a tough test. We’ve got a really tough test at Iowa State. They’re playing better. They took Colorado to the wire.”

Considering that Missouri crushed that same Colorado team 58-0, that doesn’t appear to be much of a compliment to the 2-8 Cyclones, who are winless in the Big 12 and have lost eight consecutive games, three by 28 points or more.

But strangely, the Cyclones can claim something that no other Big 12 North team can. They’re the last team to defeat Missouri, a feat they accomplished in 2006 in Ames. That’s made the Tigers cautious when discussing the division championship.

“We’ve got to go to Iowa State and take care of business,” said Missouri defensive end Stryker Sulak, who had no trouble figuring out the division scenario. “We can’t overlook them. We’re going to their house, they’re going to be playing their best game.”

Two years ago in their house, the Cyclones shrugged off their 0-7 Big 12 record and played their best game, stunning the Tigers 21-16 in a game that remains a painful memory for Missouri.

“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “We know Iowa State’s going to come ready to play. Two years ago up there, we lost, so we’re going to play with a chip on our shoulder.”

Even if victory clinches the North Division title, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel doesn’t want to focus on anything but the Cyclones.

“We’re 8-2,” Pinkel said. “I just want to be 9-2. If we win the next game, we’re 9-2. That’s all I want to focus on, and that’s probably wise.”

If that sounds familiar, it should. It’s the same approach that Pinkel’s tried since the Colorado game, and it’s produced three straight Missouri victories.

Pinkel might have Daniel thinking along those same lines, but linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was more willing to look at the big picture.

“Kansas put us in a great situation,” Weatherspoon said. “We’re grateful, we’ve just got to go out there and take care of it next week.”

But even Weatherspoon only wanted to focus on Iowa State.

“That’s our goal, to get that victory,” he said. “If we get that victory, we’ll be good off. We have to take care of this one, get better and peak at the right time.”


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