What to Watch for Tonight as We Remember the Alamo

Categories: Sports
Tonight, our beloved Missouri Tigers will take on Northwestern University in the prestigious Alamo Bowl. Well, okay, not "prestigious" in the typical sense. But definitely prestigious in the way that, um, well, um, huh. Maybe prestigious isn't the best word in any sense of it. 

At any rate, they will be playing. And I'll be watching. Maybe you will be too. 
The End of an Era: Tonight will see the last time that roughly half the Mizzou team will be on the field. Okay, maybe not half, but that's certainly the way it feels. Chase Daniel, the man who took over from Brad Smith and led the Tigers to the promised land that people had been predicting for years, will play his last game in the black and gold. Likewise Chase Coffman, the hurdling madman from Missouri. Chase Patton, the team's primary backup quarterback, will complete the Chase trifecta. Jeremy Maclin will most likely leave college to turn pro, one would have to believe. Plenty of defensive players will be leaving. 

Missouriean-thumb.JPGThe team that we've watched the last couple of years is largely composed of players who will play their last collegiate game tonight. For better or for worse (most likely for worse), this Tiger team is over. Let's hope they can go out on a high note. 

The End of an Era, Part 2: Dave Christensen, the offensive coordinator for the Tigers, is leaving. He's heading off for a head coaching gig at the University of Wyoming. I know what you're thinking. That's not all that unusual. Coaches leave jobs all the time to take jobs elsewhere. What makes this a really unusual situation is that Christensen is the first coach to leave Gary Pinkel and Mizzou. Ever. 

Since Pinkel took over the Missouri program in 2001, he's had the exact same coaching staff. Not a single coach has left. To be honest, I can't find a single other instance in recent college football history of a staff that has stayed together so completely for so long. I'm sure there are other examples, but in doing some research, I can't find one. 

The flipside of this, of course, is the opportunity for some new blood. Yes, such continuity breeds comfort and a terrific rapport, but at what point does the same staff year in, year out begin to fall into a rut? 

Mizzou+Brew+1.jpgRunning on Empty: The running game has been a little iffy for the Tigers this year. Derrick Washington, their primary back this season, has been terrific most of the time. The problem has been that, at times, the Tigers simply haven't given him the ball. Too often this season, it seemed like the Tigers got away from creating even the barest threat of the run in favor of just airing the ball out play after play. I understand the idea of putting the ball in your best player's hands, but at the same time, look around the sporting world and balance is almost always key. A boxer who only throws one type of punch is going to get his ass handed to him in short order. The same with a football team who allows their opponent to just ignore one half of the offensive game is much the same. 

I wonder if Chrsitensen, in his last hurrah at Mizzou, will be tempted to throw the kitchen sink of outlandish packages out there as sort of a going away party. The Tigers are known for their high-flying antics, after all; what better way than to go out guns blazing? Well, I'll tell you what would be better: winning. If the Tigers want to beat a Northwestern team that, frankly, should be completely outclassed tonight, they're going to need to come up with some balance on offense. 

alamo.jpgPlaying for Pride: Last year, Mizzou came into the Orange Bowl against the University of Arkansas pissed off. They had been passed over for an at-large BCS bowl bid, while Kansas, whom Mizzou blew out of the water, made it in somehow. The Tigers treated it as a personal slight, an affront to their honor as competitors. The result was an absolute drubbing of Arkansas, a statement to the rest of college football that they made a mistake in overlooking Mizzou. 

This year, the Tigers aren't in quite the same position. They made their own bed this season. Losing to a lesser Kansas team. Losing to an Oklahoma State team that I honestly believe they should have been able to take down. Oklahoma just ate them alive. So do the Tigers have a right to feel slighted this year? Well, honestly, no.

They deserve to be right where they are. At the same time, though, this team is better than the Alamo Bowl. No offense to the good folks who put this thing together, or to Northwestern University, but the Tigers shouldn't have been anywhere near the Alamo Bowl this year. The question is whether or not they can treat this the way they should. If this team comes out with the kind of rage they should feel at having backslid so dramatically this season, then things could get ugly for the Wildcats. If not, well, we've already seen what happens when this Tiger team doesn't play up to their talent. In fact, we've seen it several times this year. 

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