Missouri is an old Algonquian word meaning "the people of the big canoes." I had always assumed it meant "reliable underachiever" but I'll go with the accepted etymology from our Native American friends (a people I celebrate in both word and song).
I like canoes. I'm really enthusiastic about them.
Since the much loathed Quin Snyder departed Missouri to start a boy band, I really have no axe to grind with that school or with what is traditionally a gentle, respectful fan base for anyone who doesn't say Rock! Chalk! to them. They say that if you're quiet enough, Missouri Tiger football fans will come up and eat candy corn right out of your hand.
If you don't mind, I will now use the term Mizzou instead of Missouri (the friendly collegiate tu form instead of the stuffy formal usted).
The 2006 Tigers started off with promise (6-0) and then lost 5 of their last 7. This is a team that waylaid Texas Tech and then lost to Iowa Seriously I'm Not Shitting You State. Mizzou Football is as neurotic as a Woody Allen movie.
Once again, Mizzou is QB'd by Chase Daniel, who is both a verb and a noun. He runs the spread like it was Parkay, largely because he's been in the system since he was a neonate. He's tough, accurate, mobile; all in a sturdy compact frame analogous to Frodo's companion Sam Gamgee. Chase is listed at 6 feet in the Tiger media guide, but they don't mention that the measurement was taken while perched astride a pony (firmly tethered, in case the beast should bolt). CD, if you'll recall, was enthused about being a Longhorn, but we determined that he was a Southlake Carroll system QB and spurned his advances because we'd heard that he was too short to get into the rides at Six Flags. Daniel quickly turned his attentions to Gary Pinkel who text messaged him faithfully with many sweet nothings. Late in the game, we decided the dude who passed for 73,000 kilometers in high school might actually be a badass, but he told us to go fuck ourselves just as Mack texted the words,"Our bad, Chase." So we ended up with Colt, who is pretty much the same dude athletically, but with stronger powers of Christianity.
Mizzou fans love Chase because he's the first player they've had at QB with identifiable leadership skills since Corby Jones. Brad Smith was an extraordinary talent, just talented enough, in fact, to get your ass almost fired. Kirk Farmer is somewhere modeling wristwatches or something.
Chase is legitimately a very good college QB and he'll tear shit up at an All-Big 12 level for the next two years. Then he'll rock the house for the Frankfurt Galaxy.
The alliterative Tony Temple is a fairly talented running back who blew out his knee in summer drills, but then didn't. He's fine now and he'll put up 1,000+ yards fairly easily this year - 993 yards against the Big 12 North, 34 yards against the Big 12 South. He's fast but a negligible goalline and short yardage presence. Missouri converted less than a stuttering missionary last year. He also fumbles a lot. Maybe purposefully. I think gamblers have gotten to him.
Much is being written about the tight ends: Chase Rucker and Andy Kauffman. Actually, Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker. These are two very good players who have been transformed into Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez by a media too lazy to research the other quality options when filling out the All-Big 12 teams. They're excellent, but proclaiming their invincibility has become the new black. If I read one more thing about how they're the greatest duo since Hall & Oates, I will drown, hang, and electrocute Michael Vick.
There are fourteen kids named Chase on Missouri's roster. Is this a football team or a walking advertisement for Tommy Hilfiger? Missouri's Football Spring Game was actually played on a beach in Cape Cod, two-handed touch, and all of the skill position players wore khakis. Several players ran in slow motion, laughing. The yuppie name syndrome is salvaged somewhat by a starting DB named Pig and a DL named Izzy (make that Ziggy), who both roadied for the Alan Parson's Project in the offseason.
The Mizzou OL has two very good All-Big 12 level players in Spieker and Luellen with everyone else ranging from competent to OK. The rap is that they are not physical enough and there's some legitimacy to that rhyme. If I had to sum up the other three starters it would be with this noise: "Ehhhhh. Harumph. Hmmm."
Will Franklin is a big, fast talented WR who made massive strides between his sophomore and junior campaigns. He put up nice numbers last year despite missing three games with a torn labrum (suggesting that he may be transgendered). They have some other promising athletes here, but Franklin is the best downfield guy. He should have a big senior year.
The defense has a number of different carbon based lifeforms, none of which scream for specific fawning attention. The previews swear that their DTs (Lorenzo Williams specifically) are something special, but I could equally swear that I saw them on rollerskates on more than one occasion last year. Missouri has always had some good looking athletes on defense, but now they're getting a much more consistent effort level. Last year's defense was well above average (they allowed only 19.5 ppg), but there was a bullying aspect to them as they tended to dominate weak teams but allowed comparably talented teams to control clock, tempo, and scoreboard.
Gary Pinkel (37-35 in Columbia) has a reputation as a bit of a bonehead and a poor game manager, but that's what they said about Lee Corso at Indiana and he's on television now. So don't listen to the critics. I think he and Bill Callahan may cancel each other out here. Let's just hope he's not outwitted by that slick fox Mangino. Similarly, he should remove any snacks secreted in his jacket pockets before the post-game handshake as Mangino will pin him down, sniff them out with his moist, probing nose, and feast on them, wrapper and all, while contentedly cooing and rendering soft belly pats.
The Missouri Football fanbase - all fourteen of them - are amped (freaking amped I tell you!) about this season as they know an early October contest with Nebraska is likely to determine which Big 12 North representative gets slobberknocked in San Antonio. They don't care. The Riverwalk is fun and it's an opportunity to leave the bleak Stalingrad of St. Louis/Kansas City in December. They also have a little psychological edge: they've beaten NU handily in their last two meetings in Columbia (one of the most intimidating environments in college football).
Big 12, you are on warning! - you do not know what will hit you in terms of fan intensity at Faurot Field in Memorial Stadium! Many of their fans will wear Missouri sweatshirts and caps and clap respectfully and say incendiary things like "Go Missouri" and "Good throw, Chase!" and mildly boo your band performance; some of the more aggressive students will tell you that your school's team is suboptimal!
Can you handle that madness?
Then bring it.
The people of the big canoes are tired of being paddled around.