The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: A top-25 showdown in the Big 12 takes place in Columbia this weekend, as the 18th-ranked Missouri Tigers play host to the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
Bob Stoops' Sooners are undefeated on the season at 6-0 and sit on a lofty perch, as the initial BCS poll came out this past Sunday with Oklahoma ranked number one. The Sooners certainly looked worthy of that ranking with last weekend's 52-0 shutout of Iowa State. With the win, the Sooners moved to 2-0 in conference play.
Gary Pinkel's Tigers sport identical records at 6-0 overall and 2-0 in- conference. The team was in College Station this past weekend, where Missouri made light work of Texas A&M in a 30-9 lopsided affair.
Pinkel knows this week will be a real challenge.
"We're excited about playing Oklahoma, a very good Oklahoma football team. They're always good. Bob Stoops does a great job there, I have great respect for Bob. We're excited about playing in "The Zou" here in Columbia. It's a great opportunity for us. Other than that we're just going to work hard to try and improve and get better this week and play our best football game."
Missouri has lost seven straight and 19 of the last 20 in this series and hasn't beaten Oklahoma since 1998. Overall, the Sooners hold a 66-23-5 advantage in the series, including a 31-15 edge in games played in Columbia.
Oklahoma has the luxury of a balanced attack that is generating 36.0 ppg on 458.3 yards of total offense. The ground game is averaging 155.3 yards per game, but is set up nicely by a potent aerial assault netting 303.0 yards per outing.
Sophomore QB Landry Jones has played as well as any signal-caller in the Big 12 this year, converting 67.4 percent of his throws for 1,791 yards and 14 TDs against just three INTs. It certainly helps to have All-American talent on the outside in junior WR Ryan Broyles. The 5-11 standout has been unstoppable for the most part, pacing the team with 61 receptions, for 700 yards and five TDs.
Although the passing game is rarely held in check, tailback DeMarco Murray (663 yards, 110.5 ypg, 11 TDs) is more than capable of handling the workload when needed.
Defensively, Oklahoma has not been as dominant as in years past. The team is giving up 19.0 ppg in 2010, while allowing 373.5 yards of offense per game. The unit has generated 18 sacks and 14 takeaways, so big plays are still commonplace for the Sooner defense.
Senior LB Travis Lewis is as good as it gets at the position. The 6-2, 235- pounder is relentless in pursuit and leads the team with 59 total tackles. Jonathan Nelson (42 tackles, one INT), Tony Jefferson (37 tackles) and Quinton Carter (30 tackles, two INTs) give the team plenty of talent in the secondary, while senior DE Jeremy Beal (27 tackles, 8.5 TFLs and six sacks) is regarded as one of the nation's premier pass rushers.
Missouri will certainly present a challenge for Oklahoma's defense this week, with the Tigers averaging 34.5 ppg, on 414.7 yards of total offense. Like the Sooners, the passing game (282.8 ypg) sets everything up.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is having a strong season. The 6-5 junior is completing 66 percent of his throws, for 1,591 yards and 10 TDs. Although his receiving corps is not exactly household names, T.J. Moe (50 receptions, for 589 yards, three TDs), Michael Egnew (49 receptions, for 437 yards, three TDs), Wes Kemp (23 receptions, for 231 yards, three TDs) and Jerrell Jackson (18 receptions, for 246 yards, two TDs) are more than capable of stretching out the coverage and making plays.
There is a lot to like about Gabbert's play this year according to Bob Stoops.
"I see him operating as efficiently as Chase Daniel did. I know Chase was there for a longer period of time so Blaine is still working on that. What you've seen to this point is a guy, just like (Daniel) was, is just very efficient, smart on where he wants to go with the football. They understand their offense and he executes it well. He throws a good ball, he has good pocket presence, all of those things."
The Missouri defense has definitely been a strength this season, with the Tigers yielding just 10.8 ppg on 328.7 yards of total offense. The team has thrived in terms of making plays up the field, with 48 TFLs and 20 sacks thus far. The pressure has resulted in nine INTs this season.
Sophomore LB Zavier Gooden paces the team in tackles (40 stops, one sack, two fumble recoveries). He is followed closely by senior free safety Jarrell Harrison (39 tackles). Defensive end Jacquies Smith (18 tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks) has been productive up front.
The Tigers certainly have the ability to win this game, but the Sooners are clicking on all cylinders and the Jones to Broyles combination has been lethal. In a hostile environment, expect Oklahoma to get the job done and leave Columbia with a hard-earned victory.