COLUMBIA — The game, with its elementary logic, is an easy one to play.
We beat this team. This team beat that team. Therefore, we should beat that team.
vs. Texas State W, 50-10
at New Mexico W, 59-13
vs. Nevada W, 35-34
at Kansas W, 45-34
vs. Texas A&M L, 45-40
vs. Kansas State L, 41-34
at Oklahoma W, 41-38
vs. Iowa State L, 41-7
at Texas L, 52-20
vs. Oklahoma State L, 66-6
at Missouri 2:30 p.m. Saturday
vs. Baylor 6 p.m., Nov. 26
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel tells his players not to play the game and calls it a "kiss of death" for those looking for success playing the real one — you know, football. Experience supports his argument. Past performance does not always predict future success.
"I always tell our guys not to be judgmental," Pinkel said Monday.
As Pinkel prepares his players for Texas Tech this week, he shouldn’t have to remind them that sports and logic are not compatible. Just look at Texas Tech and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
When the Red Raiders shocked the then-No.3 Sooners 41-38 on Oct. 22 in Norman, Okla., Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville suggested that the PB&J sandwiches players ate during an hour-long lightning delay before the game might have had something to do with the upset. He said his players would continue eating them before games.
The theory hasn't quite worked out though. Texas Tech (5-5, 2-5 Big 12) has since lost three games straight, all by a lot of points. Missouri (5-5, 3-4) has not won consecutive games this season, but next to the Red Raiders, the Tigers look fairly disciplined.
Texas Tech is a team that won its first four games, albeit against easy opponents, lost its next two by less than a touchdown to ranked Texas A&M and Kansas State teams, then pulled off this season's most head-scratching upset against the Sooners.
From there, it lost 41-7 to Iowa State at home and 52-20 at offense-challenged Texas before suffering its worst defeat in school history, 66-6 to Oklahoma State.
The points allowed are somewhat explainable. Texas Tech's defense starts only two seniors, and it has mixed up the lineup before each game. Two weeks ago, the coaching staff even moved receiver Shawn Corker to cornerback after Tre’ Porter suffered a head injury. Continuity has been nonexistent. Texas Tech has limited teams to 229 passing yards a game, third-best in the Big 12, but it has given up 243 rushing yards a game, better than only Kansas.
And, as Tuberville mentioned a few times during Monday's teleconference, the offenses are especially good in the Big 12 this year.
"Sometimes you look at yourself and don't give credit to the other team," he said. "This conference is, by far, a lot stronger this year than the one last year."
Figuring out why Texas Tech's offense, which thrived the first half of the season behind quarterback Seth Doege, has faltered recently is trickier. Doege threw for fewer than 200 yards against Iowa State and Oklahoma State, and in each of the three losses the Red Raiders trailed by at least 17 points by halftime.
Tuberville guessed the team had put too much pressure on the offense to match the points the defense was giving up. That goes along with what Pinkel reiterated about sound psychology in sports: It's elusive. Keeping players focused enough to perform at full potential on a weekly basis is hard at the professional level, never mind when dealing with college-aged kids.
"I know you all get tired of me saying 'play our best game all the time' about a zillion times, but ultimately that's what you have to do," Pinkel said. "The mental side is staggering, it is."
Has watching film of the Red Raiders been puzzling? Not according to Missouri safeties coach Barry Odom. He said he was unaware of the final scores of Texas Tech's past three games, and rather than watching the course of a game, film was broken down into certain situations.
Still, there must have been discrepancies in those "certain situations" between the OU win and the OSU loss, right, coach?
"They're a great offensive football team," was all Odom would say.
The Tigers said they don't worry about which Texas Tech team shows up. Even if that's true, they will remember the disappointing loss at Lubbock last season. The loss cost Missouri an opportunity to play in the conference championship, which defensive tackle Terrell Resonno said still stings. Safety Kenji Jackson said defensive coordinator Dave Steckel has talked about how revenge can be the biggest motivator.
If that is not enough, the team has senior day and bowl eligibility to play for, not to mention motivation to remedy its own inconsistencies.
"We didn't start (the season) how we wanted to; it's been a roller coaster," Jackson said. "We have an opportunity to make it right."
Tuberville said his team is looking at the game similarly. Texas Tech will also be playing for bowl eligibility, something that seemed certain after the win over Oklahoma but now is in doubt.
The coach wouldn't attribute the three losses to a post-Oklahoma hangover — or something in the peanut butter, for that matter. To him, it is simpler.
"We're not a great football team, anyway, we knew that going into the season," Tuberville said. "We're a work in process, we try to patch holes here and there. Pretty much, we've been discovered in some areas by really good teams we've played."
Discovered by all except Oklahoma.
Who said the game of logic was easy?