It’s the game Missouri football coaches, players, and fans have had in the back of their minds for months now.
Since the Longhorns grabbed the national spotlight on New Year’s Day with an upset win against Michigan in the Rose Bowl, the Longhorns have been the team to beat in the Big 12 Conference.
They silenced any remaining critics this season with a road triumph against another Big Ten Conference powerhouse, Ohio State. The win illustrated to the college football world that Texas, 3-0, is on a national title run.
The Tigers (2-1) hope to trip up the Longhorns when they come to Columbia on Oct. 1.
Missouri is coming off an emotional win, but needs to shift its mind-set from urgency against Troy to focus against second-ranked Texas.
“Texas is a good team,” Missouri tailback Tony Temple said. “We’re going to have to execute, work hard, focus on every play and not let up.”
With a bye week, Missouri has had an extra week to prepare for Texas, which is also idle this week.
The Tigers are 3-4 in games after a bye week under coach Gary Pinkel, with the most notable win against No. 10 Nebraska in 2004.
Will the extra time help this year?
“It could be a good thing, but it could be a bad thing,” Missouri defensive end Xzavie Jackson said. “We’re going to go out there these next two weeks and have fun with it. Anything could happen.”
Texas will be the first test for the Tigers’ spread, no-huddle offense, which is ranked No. 5 among 119 Division I-A teams in total yards. The strongest defense Missouri has faced this season is Troy, ranked 61st in yards allowed, not even close to Texas, which ranks 10th.
Pinkel said preparing for the Longhorns will be the toughest task the offense has had this year.
“This is not any disrespect to Troy, because they have some good athletes,” Pinkel said. “They’re young and they can run on defense ... but Texas’ personnel is some of the best in the country, top five.”
Missouri’s defense will also have its hands full with dual-threat quarterback Vince Young.
The most recent time Missouri came off a bye week to play a team in the top five in Columbia was 2001. The Tigers lost that game 36-3 to No. 4 Nebraska.