Both teams have had success during nonconference play, but when the Tigers and Buffaloes meet at Memorial Stadium in their Big 12 Conference openers, the success of the previous three games means nothing.
“It is actually for real now, whatever you did up to this point doesn’t matter,” senior safety Jason Simpson said. “You have to win all your Big 12 North games and hopefully all your South games, too.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said the game is important for both teams as an opportunity to get a head start for a possible Big 12 North Division title.
Missouri was picked by numerous experts in the preseason to win the North and Colorado is entering conference competition undefeated for the first time since 1998.
“I think every game is important,” Pinkel said. “I think anybody, any coach would not be truthful if they said the first conference game wasn’t important. I think everybody wants to win their first conference game. It’s like your first game of the season; you want to start off in a positive way.”
The Buffaloes’ hot start comes on the heels of a rough offseason when coach Gary Barnett was suspended during an investigation into his role in Colorado’s recruiting scandal.
The good start has given Colorado momentum, which Barnett fears might have been lost during the past week, when the Buffaloes had a bye.
“If you’ve lost going into a bye week, you have to be a loser for two weeks,” Barnett said. “If you’ve won, your momentum, it’s sort of natural to have it stopped. It’s always a struggle. Things always pop up.
“It’s hard to keep them focused. I think you try not to get too much done, but you try to get enough done to where you can carry some things over.”
Pinkel is not worried about the Buffaloes losing momentum nor is he surprised by their undefeated start.
“He’s a good football coach,” Pinkel said. “The inside dynamics of a team only he knows about, and he’s said all along that they thought they were growing closer together as a team.”
The game has extra meaning for both teams. For Barnett, he is opening conference play against his alma mater and for Missouri, no current member of the Tigers has ever defeated the Buffaloes.
Simpson said the Tigers are focused on changing that trend. Colorado has defeated Missouri five straight times and has won 17 of the past 19 meetings.
“I know I’m 0-3 versus Colorado and I’m looking for my first,” Simpson said. “We just got to go into it thinking this can’t be more important to them than it is to us.”
Zach Ville said the team has extra motivation to beat the Buffaloes and try to erase the bad memories of last season’s 21-16 loss in Boulder. The Tigers outgained Colorado 447 yards to 276 yards, but Missouri turned over the ball four times including three deep in Colorado territory.
“Nobody has beat Colorado since I’ve been here, so all that is going to change this year, that’s how I feel about it,” Ville said.
Wide receiver Thomson Omboga said he does not place any extra emphasis on Colorado; rather it is important to play well in Big 12 games.
“It’s not so big in that you have to go in and beat Colorado,” Omboga said. “If we want to win the Big 12, we have to go in and win a lot of Big 12 games, so we just have to go in and look at them as a Big 12 opponent and we got to beat them to reach our goals.”