MU gains ground during bye week

Tigers can win Big 12 North after Kansas and Nebraska lose.
Tuesday, November 4, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:01 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Russ Bell had a relaxing bye week. He went home, rested and watched a little football.

That was the extent of what most of the Missouri football team did, but its interest in Saturday’s games went beyond simply enjoying the sport.

Bell said it was nice to watch football as a fan and the results were even better.

“There were some good games to watch and we were on bye week,” Bell said. “We came out pretty good. It was awesome to watch that and see everything fall into the right spots for us.

“It’s nice to be sitting in the driver’s seat.”

The Tigers watched closely as Texas pounded Nebraska and Texas A&M beat Kansas. Those results put MU in a position it hasn’t been since the inception of the Big 12 Conference.

If Missouri wins the rest of its games, the Tigers will win the Big 12 North Division and play for the conference championship on Dec. 6 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. That game would likely be a rematch against undefeated and No. 1 Oklahoma, which beat MU 34-13 on Oct. 18.

MU coach Gary Pinkel said it is imperative for his team to focus on Saturday’s game against Colorado instead of dreaming about bowl scenarios.

“All of our players are well aware of the importance of this game and the month of November,” Pinkel said. “It starts with Colorado, but any other issues besides Colorado are not going to help us focus on this very important game. We put all of our emphasis into preparation.”

BYE-BYE BYE WEEK: The Tigers had three days off in the past week and resumed practice on Thursday. Aside from watching football on television, Missouri watched Colorado film and began early preparations for Saturday’s game.

MU’s other bye week came after its Sept. 27 loss at Kansas. This time, Missouri entered the bye week on a positive note, coming off a 62-31 demolition of Texas Tech.

Cornerback Calvin Washington said it was a different feeling entering this bye week.

“Coming off a big win, we have to focus on not letting that get to our head,” Washington said. “We had to focus on not getting out of hand and keeping our focus on Colorado. As a team, I think we have done a good job of not being complacent and not letting the rankings and wins get to us.”

The Tigers got a second bye week after the Iowa State game, originally scheduled for Nov. 1, moved to Nov. 29 for television purposes.

RANK RANKINGS: Missouri dropped one spot to No. 22 in this week’s Associated Press poll. The Tigers fell from No. 24 to unranked in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll and from No. 20 to No. 24 in the newest Bowl Championship Series rankings.

Mississippi claimed MU’s spot in the coaches’ poll after a 43-40 win against South Carolina. Pinkel doesn’t care much for rankings and that attitude has trickled down to his players.

Washington wasn’t aware of the drop in the rankings until Monday. He said the team could use it as motivation for this weekend.

“It kind of hurts you in a way,” Washington said. “We have got to get that respect. That is the thing that coach Pinkel harps on and to get that back would mean a lot.”

TELEVISED TIGERS: Fox Sports Net will televise MU’s Nov. 15 game against Texas A&M. That game will start at 11:30 a.m. and will be Missouri’s sixth televised game this season.

Chad Moller, Missouri’s director of media relations, said Saturday’s game will not be on pay-per view.

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS: Pinkel said the only way the altitude in Colorado would affect his team was if it climbed Mt. Rainier in Washington. He would know, Pinkel climbed the 14,410-foot mountain in 1986.

“We went up with Mt. Everest guys,” Pinkel said. “It took us three days, we trained for it. I’ll never do it again, but I’m glad I did it.”

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