When this week’s college football polls were released Sunday, Missouri fans were treated to a rare occurrence; the Tigers were ranked in the top 10.
After their 42-28 win over visiting Iowa State on Saturday, the Tigers are ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press, USA Today and Harris college football polls. MU, 7-1 after the victory, is also listed ninth in the Bowl Championship Series standings, which selects the top two teams to play in the national championship, and coach Gary Pinkel joins former Missouri coach Warren Powers on the short list of MU football coaches to lead their team to a top 10 ranking.
The Tigers had not been ranked in the top 10 teams since 1981 when Powers was the head coach. That year, the team landed the No. 8 spot, but only for one week, until MU lost to Iowa State, an unranked team at the time.
Powers said he remembers feeling honored when his team was ranked as one of the best in the nation.
“There are only 10 teams in the country that are chosen; it is hard to get up on that list,” Powers said.
Powers said it is imperative for the 2007 Tigers to concentrate on each week individually and not to look ahead to the big games coming.
“The players are very proud to be in the top 10, but they know they have to continue to work hard in every game,” he added.
“MU is in the Big 12; they are going to face a tough game every week. The other teams are not afraid of you,” he said.
Still an avid Tigers fan, Powers says it’s great to see the team ranked highly after struggles earlier in the decade.
“MU has always had a strong program. Even when I coached at Nebraska, Mizzou was strong and it is great to see them come back,” said Powers, who now lives in Chesterfield.
The Tigers lost only one impact offensive skill position player from last year’s 8-5 team.
“This year I think Gary has put together a good squad with a lot of maturity on it,” he said.
Loyal fans, such as Columbia resident Bill Williamson, have been waiting for a season like this since the ‘60s, when he attended MU.
“In the late ‘60s we had a really great team, and it is good to see them return,” he said.
In 1968, the Tigers were ranked as high as sixth before beating Alabama in the Gator Bowl, and they appeared in the Orange Bowl the following year, when they won their last conference title.
Williamson said he has noticed recently that the students have become more excited during the games — a possible side effect of the Tigers’ success.
“I always sit on the press box side by the same people,” he said. “I have seen much more spirit and excitement coming from the students in the past few years than ever before,” Williamson added.
Pinkel said the Tigers are meeting their expectations of being the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 North. However, he knows it is important for him and his team to keep the season in perspective like Powers said , because it is only the end of October.
“We know what it is like right now, but in two weeks it could be entirely different,” Pinkel said. “It is exciting, though. This is a great position to be in.”
The Tigers, who haven’t won a north title since the Big 12’s inception in 1997, still have four games left in the regular season at Colorado, at home against Texas A&M, at Kansas State and against No. 8 Kansas in Kansas City. If the Tigers and the currently undefeated Jayhawks both win their next three games, the Border Showdown at Arrowhead Stadium would be for a berth in the Big 12 Championship in San Antonio. This season also marks the first time that both MU and KU have been ranked in the top 10 at the same time since 1976, when Kansas was also No. 8 and Missouri was No. 9.