COLUMBIA — When it comes to Big 12 North division rival Colorado, the Missouri football team hasn’t had much to worry about in recent years. The Tigers have won the past four matchups against the Buffaloes with ease. But a revitalized Colorado team comes to Columbia on Saturday determined to overcome the program's two biggest bugaboos — Missouri, and road games.
Colorado comes to Missouri with a 3-1 record. And while the Buffaloes won't storm through Columbia on their way to a national championship, a one-loss record through a laudable nonconference schedule is an improvement. Even if those wins had come at the expense of the three worst teams in college football, it would be an improvement — Colorado only won three games in 2009.
Colorado Buffaloes (3-1)
at No. 24 Missouri Tigers (4-0)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM and 100.5 FM, KCQM/96.7 FM
TV: Fox Sports Net
Now the mission for Colorado is to improve on the strong start by winning games in Big 12 Conference play. Colorado won two conference games last year, and winning three conference games in 2010 makes the Buffaloes bowl-eligible.
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said this week a lot of his team’s early success has come because the Buffaloes are “desperate.”
“It’s interesting what a bit of confidence will do for a group of guys,” Hawkins said. “Guys get confident, they’re not pressing as much ... then they have that breakthrough moment.”
Colorado might have had their breakthrough when they beat Georgia last week in Boulder. Georgia’s record fell to 1-4, but Colorado fans still stormed the field.
What kind of celebration would result if the Buffaloes can beat Missouri?
In Hawkins’ four years at Colorado, Missouri has manhandled his teams. The last time Colorado played against the Tigers in Columbia, they were on the losing end of a 58-0 beatdown. No matter where the game is played, the Tigers have dominated, outscoring Colorado a combined 177-40 in the past four games.
"They've done a great job," Hawkins said. "Scheming, the technical portion of it, they've out-executed us.”
Perhaps Tyler Hansen is the man to finally turn the tables in the one-sided rivalry. Hansen emerged as Colorado’s No.1 quarterback in spring practices, ending Colorado’s quarterback controversy between Hansen and Cody Hawkins — a controversy that lingered for the better part of two full seasons. And while Hansen’s statistics aren’t outstanding, he has been able to bring some level of consistency to the Colorado offense.
Moments after Colorado’s last-minute win against Georgia last week, Hansen was already thinking about beating the Tigers.
"This is a great win and everything against a good SEC team," Hansen told the Boulder Daily Camera last Saturday night. "I'm thinking, if we beat Missouri, they've had our number for years, and if we beat Missouri, that would be the biggest win of our season so far."
The desperation that Hawkins says might be driving his team is still lingering in Boulder. Senior cornerback Jimmy Smith hasn’t experienced a victory against Missouri in his three years playing with the Buffaloes, and he knows he has one last chance at the Tigers.
"They've been beating on us as long as I've been here," Smith said. "I definitely want to go out with this one at least and win this one."
Colorado has had their problems with Missouri, but those problems pale in comparison to the Buffaloes' problems winning on the road.
Colorado has only played one road game this season, Sept. 11 against California in Berkeley. Nothing went well in that game for Colorado. The Buffaloes lost 52-7. Since that point, California has lost two consecutive games.
Road losses aren’t uncommon in college football, but they are an epidemic at Colorado. In Hawkins’ four years, the Buffaloes have won only two road games, victories against Baylor and Texas Tech in 2007. In three out of four seasons, Hawkins’ team has not won a conference road game.
The road woes are a big reason Hawkins’ job is on the line in Boulder, but a conference road win against Missouri would be a double dose of job security.