Sittler column: OU-Mizzou has the makings of a hated rivalry
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
10/20/10 at 4:31 AM
Go to Dave Sittler's BlogOriginal Print Headline: OU-Mizzou has makeup of a rivalry
NORMAN - When it comes to football rivalries, Oklahoma needs to adopt this attitude Saturday and into the foreseeable future: To hell with Nebraska, bring on Missouri.
It's time to quit mourning. Nebraska's departure after this season for the Big Ten Conference means the storied series between the Sooners and Cornhuskers is history.
For my money, OU-Mizzou is what a rivalry is all about. Instead of that warm, fuzzy, love-in atmosphere that became part of recent games between the two Big Reds, there is no love lost between the Sooners and Tigers.
Back in the day, there was plenty of tension and hard feelings between OU and Nebraska. That's when Husker coach Tom Osborne couldn't beat OU's Barry Switzer.
Once Switzer left and Osborne finally found some OU coaches he could dominate, someone came up with the corny idea that the OU-NU game had always been a classy matchup, unlike the Sooners' annual hatefest with Texas.
Baloney. Switzer didn't become a beloved figure in Nebraska until he was forced to retire. Thousands of Husker fans detested his brash, cocky demeanor, and were infuriated when, after Osborne finally beat him, Switzer convinced the Orange Bowl to stage a rematch, which the Sooners won six weeks later.
OU-Missouri has heated up in recent years and developed into a great showdown. That's because today's Tigers know how the Huskers felt back in the day when Norman was really Switzerland, and the OU coach was introducing the term "Sooner Magic" when he also ruled Nebraskaland.
Like Osborne, Missouri's Gary Pinkel is an excellent coach who has restored the roar to the Tigers' tradition-rich program. But just like Osborne with Switzer, Pinkel has a Bob Stoops problem.
OU's coach is 7-0 against Pinkel and the Tigers. Two of Stoops' six Big 12 championships came at the expense of Missouri in 2007 and 2008. The first loss was especially painful for the Tigers because they were ranked No. 1 in the nation.
The Sooners have won 19 of their last 20 meetings with the Tigers. That lopsided record and the Big 12 title defeats prompted the Tigers to circle this game on their preseason calendars.
Adding a dose of bitter spice to this series is that longtime Mizzou fans and officials know they have only themselves to blame for Stoops being at OU.
When Missouri athletic director Joe Castiglione didn't feel appreciated after working 17 years at the school, he left for the Sooners' AD job in April 1998 and hired Stoops that December.
Over time, some bitter and ruffled feelings developed with Stoops' decade-long domination of Pinkel and the Tigers. Stoops added to Mizzou's anger by winning some games he should have lost by using trick plays and motivational ploys.
A picture the Big 12 should use to promote the league's future should be the one of the conference's offensive and defensive players of the year going facemask-to-facemask during the 2007 title game.
Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel and OU linebacker Curtis Lofton were in each other's grills all night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, when OU put a 38-17 whipping on the No. 1 Tigers.
Asked later what the two were talking about, Lofton had a sly smile when he said: "I was congratulating Chase on being the Big 12's offensive player of the year."
Now that screams "rivalry." Instead of a group hug and a Kumbaya sing-a-long that some attached to recent OU-Nebraska games, OU and Mizzou get in each other's faces and then the Big 12 brothers keep what was really said within their conference family.
So when No. 3 OU (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) takes on No. 18 Mizzou (6-0, 2-0) on Saturday night in Columbia, Mo., the Sooners know what they're walking into at Faurot Field.
"We're going down to a hornet's nest," OU wide receiver Dejuan Miller said Tuesday. "Missouri is a formidable opponent."
Sooner offensive tackle Donald Stephenson, a native of Blue Springs, Mo., attended several Missouri home games during his recruiting process.
"It can get really rowdy down there," said Stephenson, who has warned teammates of what to expect in the 7 p.m. contest that will be nationally televised by ABC.
A raucous, sold-out crowd and a ticked-off team lusting to host OU? What else is new, Stoops asked yesterday.
"It's pretty hard for us wherever we go," Stoops said. "People are usually waiting on us."
Thus far, Missouri has played like it's more than ready to fill Nebraska's role as a team that brings national attention and honors to the Big 12. The Tigers' success, plus OU being ranked No. 1 in the first BCS standings, convinced ESPN officials to bring their popular "College GameDay" show to the battle of the unbeatens.
Asked whether he was excited that the GameDay crew will be in town, Miller said: "Who wouldn't be? (Lee) Corso, (Kirk) Herbstreit ... they're all going to be there.
"This is what the media loves. Everybody loves the big games."
Every one of the 10 schools that will remain in the Big 12 next season certainly loves it that two of the original members are bringing all this positive publicity to the conference.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know Mizzou desperately wanted to stiff the Big 12 and join Nebraska in the Big Ten.
But it didn't happen, OK? So get over it.
Besides, the Tigers flirting with another league helps amp up the emotions in what is destined to be one of the new Big 12's best rivalries.