SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/20/2006 12:53:00 PM
Beware of the Tigers?
Quarterback Chase Daniel is quickly helping Missouri fans get over the loss of four-year starter Brad Smith.
John Rieger/US PRESSWIRE
I got a call this week from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who wanted to gauge whether 3-0 Missouri was starting to garner some national recognition. I have to admit, my initial reaction was: "You're serious?" The Tigers' three wins have come against I-AA Murray State, Ole Miss (last seen getting pummeled by Kentucky) and New Mexico (previously seen scoring six points against Portland State).
In all seriousness, however, there is ample reason to take notice of Mizzou -- not as a national-title contender, obviously, but as a team that appears to be much improved from past seasons. Now, you might be saying to yourself: "Wait a minute. The only reason worth paying attention to Missouri football the past four years was Brad Smith, and now he's gone. How can they possibly be 'much improved?'"
Well, for one thing, new QB Chase Daniel has the makings of a future star himself. The sophomore came to Columbia following a decorated high-school career at Texas prep power Southlake Carroll, where he was named the 2004 EA Sports National High School Player of the Year and led his team to a 16-0 record and USA Today national championship. Because of his height, however (believed to be between 6-foot and 6-1), he went largely ignored by Texas and other traditional recruiting powers.
Daniel ran virtually the same shotgun-spread offense in high school as the one Missouri installed last season, and it shows. After offering Tigers fans a glimpse of the future when he came off the bench in place of an injured Smith to rally Mizzou past Iowa State last season, Daniel ascended to starter this season and already looks like a seasoned vet. He's completed 67 percent of his passes for 762 yards, seven touchdowns and just one pick. Against Ole Miss, he also ran for 89 yards.
I watched much of that Ole Miss game, and while Daniel looked good, the more impressive thing to me was the Tigers' defense. While Missouri's offense struggled the past couple years even with Smith, mystifying observers and causing much criticism (including by me) of head coach Gary Pinkel, the defense was quietly improving and now appears to be a real strength. Through three games, Mizzou ranks second nationally in total defense. The strength is clearly its line, whose star, senior DE Brian Smith, leads the nation with six sacks. The Tigers are second overall in sacks with 14. "We've surprised a lot of people with what we have done," said Brian Smith. "It's definitely a lot better than what people thought we'd be without Brad Smith."
So, does all of this mean I will be adding Missouri to my Top 25 ballot next week? No. Like I said at the beginning, the Tigers haven't played anyone worth getting excited over yet, and they won't the next two weeks, either (Ohio and Colorado). What I'll be interested to see is how the Tigers fare when they play their three games against Big 12 South opponents -- at Texas Tech (Oct. 7) and Texas A&M (Oct. 14) and home against Oklahoma (Oct. 28).
Believe it or not, it's been almost three years since a Big 12 North team has beaten Texas, Oklahoma or Texas Tech. Last year's North champion, Colorado, lost to the South champion, Texas, 70-3. So until Nebraska, Missouri or anyone else proves they can beat one of those teams, or a decent non-conference foe for that matter, the Big 12 North is essentially dead to me. But I do think there's a good chance that Daniels and the Tigers could end the drought this season.
I think it is difficult to draw any conclusion from early season mismatches. That said, there are a few things that can be clues of things that will be exploited in the future. Generally speaking, offenses are considered to be ahead of defenses this time of year (i have no statistical evidence to back this up - but it is one of those axioms that coaches repeat). Assuming it is true, I think if defenses are struggling at this time of year, they are going to be toast by the end of the season.
When my Dawgs struggled with Utah State on defense in its 1999 opener, it was a pretty good indication that new defensive coordinator Kevin Ramsey had prepared the team well.
Shifting gears, you reference their win over Mississippi, which is struggling to put it politely. I think the more interesting question is how long is it going to take Orgeron to lose his way out of a job. Further, between Orgeron, Sly Croom, and Rich Brooks, I don't know which one has done more to destroy the top-to-bottom arguement about the SEC as a power conference
Stewart, Chase Daniel did not go ignored by the Texas powers. A&M had a commitment by Stephen McGee. Texas had commitments from Ryan Perriloux and Colt McCoy. Texas Tech had Graham Harrell. Oklahoma had Rhett Bomar and Oklahoma State had Bobby Reid. As you can see it was a very deep year for quarterbacks in Texas that year. Also if I am Chase Daniel would you have gone to any of those schools with those commitments? By the way Texas went after him late after Perriloux de-committed but it was too little too late.Thanks.
Missouri!? People complain about a soft Pac-10, but that Big-12 North is downright pathetic. Given that Mizzou might squeak out six soft wins and minor bowl - how would they look on blue turf?
Speaking of the Big-12, Bob Stoops and OU need to stop whining like a babies. They knew Pac-10 officials were part of the package. Trying to back out now is just a childish tantrum. Stoops is lucky he is preparing merely for Compass Point State this week and has the time to keep griping about the officiating.
Thanks for mentioning Mizzou. With Chase taking the snaps, they should provide entertaining football for viewers and fans this season. A&M may be the opponent to yield victory to the North, and Mizzou may be the team to claim it, but would you consider this potent enough to declare the "Northern curse" cured?
Two things: 1) Southlake Carrol is a public high school, not a prep school. They may recruit like a prep school, but they're still in the public system. 2) Coming from that area, I thought it odd that Chase Daniels was committed to Missouri. But looking back, it makes sense that he would go somewhere with an offensive system similar to the one he ran in high school. Just a thought.
I'm in school in Australia, so I'm unable to pick up any college football games, but I followed the Notre Dame game by refrshing my browser until the score was 37-21 when I turned my laptop off and went surfing... when I got home and looked at the final score I was shocked. WIsh I was back home to watch that one on the old tube.
Don't get me wrong, there are UF fans out there who are booing Chris Leak. They are morons, but I think the booing Saturday night had less to do with Leak and more to do with the fact that Tebow had just run 62 yards in 3 plays and was pulled before being allowed to go for a TD. No smart UF fan thinks we will win anything this year with a freshman QB, but not letting him go for a touchdown after he personally moved the ball down the field is a little unfair. It would be the same as if Leak had just thrown a 70 yard pass to the 5 yard line and was pulled.
shame on you! You are a biased pig. You praise black quarterbacks for paractically nothing and criticize white qbs unmericifully. But you out slimed yourself with the comment about Morelli's intelligence. What are you implying; that Italians are dumb? Yes, I am an Italian American with a PhD. I AM OUTRAGED AT YOUR INSENSITIVITY. Don't even try to say that you didn't mean to degrade Morelli. Did you state that Smith's two interceptions were the result of his low intelligence? No! Because bad judgment is bad judgement not inferior intellect?
You ride Bama a lot but you must admit that John Parker Wilson has been one of the two most consitent quarterbacks in the SEC. You also make no mention of LT Andre Smith who might just be the best true freshman in the country. And I am not even a Bama fan!