In 1519 Hernan Cortes began his extraordinary campaign against the Aztecs. Whatever you think of his morality (he had none) and his motivations (personal glory) he was one of the great badasses of history, conquering a massive Aztec empire outnumbered one thousand to one. And you thought Appalachian State over Michigan was an upset? Cortes did it with duplicity, scheming, brutality, and balls of Toledo steel. Les Miles carries a portrait of him in his wallet.
Each is about this big
In 1526, Francisco Pizarro launched his own campaign against the Incas informed by the experiences of Cortes. He followed the Spanish gameplan pretty well: pass self off as God, capture native ruler and hold him hostage, betray everyone, double-deal, enlist oppressed native allies, divide, conquer. He did his scouting. 168 conquistadors were able to take down an entire Andean empire. Knowledge is definitely power.
If only the Aztecs could have sent the Incas the Spanish game film. They could have game planned something that went like this:
1. The men in tall ships are not Gods
2. Slaughter them when they land on the beach
3. Burn their bodies to prevent the spread of their diseases
4. Put all of your precious metal back in the ground and never speak of it again
5. Learn to work iron
Chase Daniel is the heart of the Missouri offense
Unlike the poor Incas, we get to see film and gameplan. So does our opponent. So what worked last week may not work next week if the other team has the ability to do something about it. Football is a dynamic game and that's what makes it so cool. It's one of the primary reasons that the transitive property doesn't work that well in football assessment. After seven weeks of football, we know that they know that we know they know. That doesn't really matter if you're 2005 Texas and your gameplan is something along the lines of - Look, we're going to destroy you. There's nothing you can do about it, so let's just get it over with. But we're not that team. We have good not great talent, we play very hard, and we is very tricksy. Our ability to remain tricksy will determine whether we win this league. Film is the enemy of tricksy.
Oklahoma sent Missouri a message that went something like this:
1. They are not Gods (see '05 Texas), they just play really hard
2. Double cover Shipley and Cosby; make someone else beat you
3. Don't weaken yourself with your own internal dissension: i.e. penalties and turnovers
4. Burn their pass defense with route complexity and multiple responsibilities
5. Roll your pocket and bootleg - a static QB is a dead QB
Although Oklahoma might be the best team we play the message above is why each one of our ranked opponent games will be just as challenging as OU.
Why? Because we're trying to take down empires with 168 conquistadors. And the buggers keep trading film. Missouri won't let Jordan Shipley murder them in the flex slot. Unless they're coached by hamsters. They'll take it away and we'll move to Plan B. The next team won't let A and B beat them, so we'll have to move to C. And so forth.
I would say that every game will be a chess match, but that might undermine my broader point. Each test will be different: our game against Missouri will be a chess match, our game against Oklahoma State will be the New York Times crossword, our game at Tech will be Trivial Pursuit (also my nickname for the Aggie defense) and so on. To win each, we're going to have to show a new skill set. We're not facing "a bunch of spread offenses." OU, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Tech & KU are completely different animals and they attack you in different ways. And each will be informed by what worked for their predecessor.
Mind you, none of this is meant to be pessimistic. In fact, I'm looking forward to see what each week brings. We get to watch our own film and make our own adjustments. The question is when adversity strikes, like Cortes, will we have always have one more bold gambit up our sleeve? Will we continue to exhibit the will to win week after week? If this team is truly special, we're going to have the privilege of marveling each Sunday morning at how our staff and players did it once again. One thing is clear: whatever the outcome, this is clearly a group that has burned its ships on the shore and is committed to victory.