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Missouri football coach faces reality of playing Oklahoma

Monday, October 18, 2010 | 8:36 p.m. CDT; updated 10:55 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 18, 2010
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel speaks to reporters before the start of the 2010 season at the Big 12 Conference Media Day in Irving, Texas.

COLUMBIA — MU football coach Gary Pinkel will not be attending ESPN’s "College GameDay."

Although the rest of the university and town are buzzing about the appearance of "GameDay" for the Tigers' football game against Oklahoma on Saturday, for Pinkel the show is just an added bonus — something he can’t waste too much time thinking about.

He says he is focused on the reality of the situation, peppering his speech with the words, "It is what it is."

“For us, there’s going to be a lot of stuff going on," Pinkel said. "A lot of excitement on campus and different things, but we need the ability to be able to focus on the task at hand and focus on preparation.”

Beyond the crowds and personalities, beyond the hoopla that the telecast will undoubtedly bring, lurks one thing for Pinkel: responsibility.

Pinkel has never beaten Oklahoma, and he said he has the responsibility to do so. He’s treating the football game like any other, but he is also a bit concerned. Pinkel was clear he is not buying into the hype, but he is also aware of what a victory would bring.

Pinkel said that Saturday’s game is the most important thing on his mind right now but not because of the opponent. He tries not to look ahead, and each week he stays focused only on the next matchup. The team has been successful so far this season, so he said he sees no reason to break from the way it has prepared previously.

There’s no doubt that the Oklahoma game is the biggest challenge that the Tigers have faced so far this season, and it’s hard for Pinkel to ignore the heightened pressure. But he’s clear that the position his team is in today is a good one, the result of its solid performance so far this year. There’s no secret formula that brought the Tigers to where they are today.

“You just go week by week,” Pinkel said. “Obviously, I’ve always told my players, the more you win the bigger the games get.”

Pinkel said that Oklahoma is a team with a long tradition of winning and that playing on the same level as the Sooners is always a daunting task.

“If you want to talk in the same sentence as Oklahoma, you’ve got to be able to beat them,” Pinkel said.

So far, Missouri hasn’t been in that sentence. Under Pinkel, the Tigers are 0-6 against Oklahoma but are hoping to break the trend and add a win to that record on Saturday. Pinkel said that he’s not even discussing past games against Oklahoma with his players — those were different teams and different circumstances. All that matters to him is the reality of the situation: the players he has today and the plays they can make.

It is what it is.


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