Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mizzou Sanity Roundtable

It’s the first official Mizzou Roundtable! Just like The Mizzou Exchange rips off Bill Simmons’ “Curious Guy” bit, this idea very clearly rips off the “Like Father, Unlike Son” bit over at PowerMizzou (along with about 1,350 other similar bits), but...well...I say it’s an original idea because nobody has done a roundtable with this specific group of people.

So without further adieu...joining me for this are Doug, ZouDave, The Beef, Michael Atchison, and Trripleplay. I never ended up with Bill C’s answers, and I will add them if I get them.

As we prepare for another school year's worth of college sports, what was your favorite (college sports) moment of 2006-07?

Doug: The most enjoyable moment of the 06-07 college sports season? For me, it was the entire college basketball season.

David Stern's implementation of draft eligibility requirements for the 2006 draft, paid big dividends for this season of basketball. Without those limitations in place, one can be fairly certain both Greg Oden and Kevin Durant would have jumped straight from high school to the NBA and spent most of the season sitting on the bench (certainly collecting a big paycheck, but that's besides the point).

Instead both wound up creating one of the most exciting college seasons in recent memory, Durant by being an offensive force of nature and Oden by dominating with one hand, his off-hand even. Together, the two provided some of the most memorable performances and games, combining to create one great season. Granted, we still had to deal with Joakim Noah, but Durant and Oden provided high-energy, athletic play without the dramatics or the ponytail.

On a more regional scale, Durant offered up plenty of Big 12 Conference dramatics. Consider the triple overtime game against Oklahoma State, the double overtime win over Texas A&M, the regular season championship on the line against Kansas and the Big 12 Tournament title overtime, also against the Jayhawks. I think it is without a stretch that if you were to pick the top 5 in most memorable Big 12 conference games this season, Texas would be included in at least four of those games.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Durant and the Longhorns did not see the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Some would blame Rick Barnes for his inability to call a set offense instead of relying so much of his freshman uber-star, and while I don't think that's too far off, Durant never seemed to hit the "wall", still turning in 40 minutes and 30 points against USC in the second round loss, showing why Barnes never lost faith in him. And, Oden lead Ohio State to the title game, before turning in his best-all-around performance of the season, proving he will be a force in the NBA, especially with two good hands.

It all added up to the most memorable moment of the 2006-07 college season, and almost made me forget about Joakim Noah. Almost.

Michael Atchison: I’m a basketball guy first, but from a purely objective point of view, the most exciting thing I’ve seen in the past twelve months – maybe ever – was Boise State pulling off the Statue of Liberty play to beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. That wasn’t a football game, it was a Rocky movie, with the teams throwing and landing haymaker after haymaker, just unbelievable to watch. And that game only reinforced my view that if we ever get to an eight-team playoff, at least one spot (probably two) should be reserved for non-BCS teams. There’s no point in having non-BCS Division I football unless we’re going to give those schools the chance to play for a title. In a system that’s already stacked against the little guy, Boise State (like Utah a few years back) proved that all those Davids should get their shots against college football’s Goliaths.

From a Mizzou perspective, watching as Ben Askren – the most dominant Tiger athlete ever – made a scorched earth march to another NCAA wrestling title is something I’ll not soon forget, though I only saw that on television. Of all the events I witnessed personally (and there were many), I’ll take the basketball Tigers’ win over Arkansas during the great blizzard of ought-six. I ended up being stranded at the Stoney Creek Inn (along with Senator Kit Bond) for a couple of days, but it was worth it. For me, that was the day Missouri basketball was reborn. Coach Mike Anderson’s team made believers out of a small but exuberant crowd that ringed the court tightly after Randy Wright invited everyone down into the prime seats. We saw a sort of pride, effort and enthusiasm on the floor that had been absent in recent years, and the defense was so hellacious that with about fifteen minutes left in the game, the Razorbacks’ body language unmistakably said “we’ve had enough of this $#!*.” The rest of the season went in fits and starts, but the seeds of future success were certainly planted that night.
The Beef: I will follow Atch’s lead here in a couple of ways. I will include overall college and then a Mizzou sports moment in my answer.

I should have offered to go first since people have already taken my answer, especially on Boise St. I have the highlights of that game DVR’ed and cued up so I can just sit down and watch the last two minutes of regulation and the overtime. And screw Chris Myers for RUINING Ian Johnson’s plan to ask his girlfriend to marry him. Don’t know what I am talking about? Go back and watch his interview with Johnson again post-game. With the cheerleader clearly within ear-shot, he says to Johnson something about planning to ask his girlfriend. The give-away is her reaction to over-hearing Myers saying this….all that planning…out the window.

Anyway, yeah, Rocky movie, haymakers, david and goliath….

For me in Mizzou Sports, it would have to be the Homecoming game against K-state. Mizzou, like the offense was relentless (like the rain) and it completed the tour of the Big XII for me, as Mizzou finally beat the Wildcats as a Big XII team. I had seen every other team lose to us at some point in my Mizzou career, this was the last one to fall. I think they showed a mean streak in that game which they are going to need to have all season this year. I know Coach Pinkel does not like to run it up on teams, and I am with him on that, but the offense needs to be balls to the wall until he calls off the dogs each game. Mizzou needs to carry that intensity all year to make our attainable goals of the North and major step on the national scene.
ZouDave: I'll start out by saying my favorite college moment this year is NOT the past 2 days at work (and it works since I work at a University). Losing the HD of the DHCP server, that is also acting as DNS for about 1/4 of the computers in the system and all of those computers happen to be a minimum of 200 miles away (and up to about 2000 miles away) from where I am is not fun. And it explains the lateness of my reply.

But, once I get done whining like a girl...

My favorite moment of the college season is going to be completely anti-climactic to everyone else's answer, and is based solely on my blind homerism to Mizzou and caring about that above and beyond whatever else might happen in college athletics. My favorite moment of the year was the 1st quarter of the Ole Miss game. The win over Murray State in our first game of '06 meant absolutely nothing, and while it was nice to see Chase tear them in half it was really the only thing that could have happened. There was still PLENTY of doubt about what we had in him and in this team. No more Brad Smith, an offense that we hadn't even seen run properly yet, a QB starting as a true Soph that everyone was calling "sawed off" and we're getting ready to face a SEC team that had just beaten Memphis the week before and had this highly touted QB and this coaching staff coming in from Miami and other places and Ole Miss was supposed to be a team we shouldn't overlook.

Well we didn't overlook them. We overpowered them. We kicked the living crap out of them. And it all started in the 1st quarter, with Mizzou taking the ball first, and this little sawed off QB (last time I will EVER call him that) led his team on an efficient and eye-opening drive that resulted in a Chase Daniel TD run and took less than 4 minutes off of the clock. Mizzou didn't look back until well into October, and it all started with that opening drive against Ole Miss. In an instant, Mizzou fans breathed a sigh of relief that the post-Brad Smith era was in good hands and that there wouldn't be another Corby Jones hangover that leads us into the toilet once again. And in that same instant, other schools had to sit up and pay a little more attention because even though Mizzou graduated something like 71% of its yardage from the year before (named Brad Smith) somehow their offense actually improved. Tony Temple was ripping off 5 yards per carry, the ball was all over the field (7 different receivers on the day), and these 2 newbies named Jared Perry and Danario Alexander showed up immediately to play alongside an already veteran receiving corps of Ekwerekwu, Franklin, and the TE combo from Heaven: T-Ruck and Coffman. And this is weird, but some diver named Wolfert put every single PAT right down the middle and also hit 2 field goals? Oh my.

Even the defense was amazing that day, and in that first quarter. The first play from scrimmage for Ole Miss resulted in a sack. They would be backpedaling against our defensive pressure all day. It was about as big a statement as we could have made in that game. We won 34-7 and it was never that close. Ole Miss' only TD was a gift and we took our foot off the gas in the 4th quarter, even giving Brandon Coleman some time. And congrats to him, he got a rushing TD on the day. That day was the best moment of the year, because my fears were erased and I started to believe this program of ours could actually be going somewhere, and that it was okay to believe that and not always be waiting for and expecting the shoe to drop and Mizzou to mess it all up. Some would argue we did, but I said before the season that if we went 8-4 on the year, winning all of our non-cons and getting out of Texas with 1 win, plus sweeping the kansas schools that I would be a believer. Well, I'm a believer. And it all started on the opening drive against Ole Miss.
Trripleplay: So far no one has identified a favorite college sports moment from 2006-07, so I will.

Without a doubt, the greatest moment this past season for me was on Friday evening on June 1st at Taylor Stadium, just before the first Missouri-Louisville game started, and I found myself standing in Section E, next to Row 4, Seat 1, looking around me and above me at an incredible mass of people - more than I had ever seen at Simmons Field. The sight of over 3,000 people squeezed in there to watch the Mizzou Baseball team in their first Columbmia Regional - i was like a little boy from a poor family waking up on Christmas morning to find the living room crammed full of presents, all with my name on them.

The rest of the weekend was fantastic (except for the final outcome). But that moment is what I will never forget.
The Boy: Duly admonished by trrip, I shall stick to specific moments. From a Mizzou perspective, that moment was when William Moore picked off a Graham Harrell pass and returned it for a TD, making it a) 24-0 Missouri in Lubbock, b) the second straight Harrell pass INT’d for a TD, and c) the exact moment where I thought “This could be a really special season!” Granted, it was only a somewhat special season, one in which Mizzou raced to a 7-1 start and limped to a 1-4 finish—no one can exceed expectations in a more disappointing fashion than Mizzou, huh? But, watching that game at home (and eating Smokin’ Chicks BBQ, I might add), Moore’s INT had me standing on my sofa for a few seconds. No other moment of 2006-07 earned that honor.

On a non-Mizzou level, the best moment had to be the Boise State hook-and-ladder against OU, or as Billy Bob from Varsity Blues called it, “Is this the play where I run down field and act like I’m lost? That play never works!” Granted, it wouldn’t have worked if Billy Bob were catching the pitch, but...seriously, the last five minutes (and OT) of that game were just unparalleled. OU makes a dramatic comeback, capped by a 2-point conversion that took about 16 attempts (and 10 minutes in real time) after penalties. Marcus Walker picks off the next Zabransky pass for the TD, giving OU a sudden, shocking lead. The hook-and-ladder ties it. Peterson rips off a 25-yard TD to start the OT. BSU uses a halfback pass for a TD on their possession, then the Statue of Liberty Play (which I’d never seen work at any level) for the win. Bob Stoops damn near runs off the field, looking like he was escaping a hornet’s nest. Then Ian Johnson proposes. This would have been deemed too unrealistic in a movie script.
What are you most looking forward to for 2007-08?

The Beef: For me, as much as I hate to say it, I am most looking forward to football season. I hate saying that because football impacts me physically, emotionally, psychologically more than any other Mizzou sport. It just gets in me. I will forever remember the ’97 NU game more for what did not happen than the ’03 game for what did happen. So for me, to have a year where the expectations are higher than they have ever been since my arrival to Mizzou (1995) is scary and great. But let’s be honest…it is why I drink before games…I cannot take them sober just because I get so nervous. However, if we make it KC in November with the chance to wrap up the Big XII north (or hopefully wrapped up already)…needless to say, that is going to be SOME afternoon for me.

A close second will be the continued improvement of the Olympic Sports. How will volleyball react to losing the seniors they did, but bringing in the talent on the other side? Wrestling losing Ben Askren from the lineup? What will baseball do (especially given how well Crow and Gibson are DOMINATING the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer)? Softball? Gymnastics? Honestly, the amount of pride those sports generate for me is really high.
Doug: What am I looking forward to the most in 2007-08?

Well, I don't know that I'm looking forward to it, but I'm certainly anticipating what should be a showdown between Mark Mangino and Lew Perkins. Perkins has already gone on record that he expects more out of the KU Football team than a 6 and 6 season. When you consider the amount of capital that's been sunk into the program since Perkins arrived, and he vastly expanded the trend started by Al Bohl, it is quite apparent Perkins is going to be demanding bigger and better results this season and next.

Also, few can not notice KU has an extremely easy non-conference schedule and is still set with the slightly "easier" rotation with the Big 12 South. Plus, K-State is still in a re-building process. If KU Football is going to make a comeback in the state of Kansas, these next two years are cruicial. If a bowl victory is not achieved this season, and the bottom falls out next year (quite likely), Kansas could be back on the market for a head football coach in as little as two year.
Trripleplay: I'm most looking forward to the maturing of the Tiger Baseball pitching staff. Aaron (The) Crow and Kyle (Bob Jr) Gibson are dominating the renowned Cape Cod League this summer. I expect Crow to be in contention for the big XII Pitcher of the Year. Gibson could very well move into the weekend rotation. And then you still have Rick (expect a no-hitter)Zagone, Ian (Throw the Cheese...)Berger, Greg (2-position) Folgia, Scooter(aka Never-Say-Quit) Hicks, et al. I expect a better season than last year.

ZouDave: October 6. I'm looking forward to October 6.

I am pretty confident that Mizzou is going to be 4-0 going into this game against Nebraska (in fact I'll be quite upset if we're not). We have 2 pretty good non-con games to start the year off, but unfortunately both are away from Columbia and I'm going to be unable to attend either of them. Then we get 2 patsies at home (and I'm sure someone will remind me that Western Michigan is not to be taken lightly, blah blah blah, I can take lightly whomever I want. I'm a fan, not a player or coach. They'll do their jobs, I'm going to sit here and expect a walk.) So we really don't get to see any fireworks in Columbia until October 6, and it's the biggest game of the year. There's not another game in the Big XII this year that I'd rather see in person, and that includes Texas vs Oklahoma. I already admitted I'm a homer.

But this game is going to mean SO much to both teams involved, because the loser of this game has such an incredibly steep uphill battle to fight to try and regain the division that it's likely they drop another game they shouldn't because they're so dejected. This matchup has turned into a pretty nasty, feisty little rivalry over the past 4 years. Make no mistake about it, Nebraska and its fans realize that Mizzou is their competition right now. We absolutely MUST win the North immediately if we aim to stay with them, and possibly move ahead of them. It's so crucial it's hard to even think about what it will be like if we don't win. If we don't win that game, I fear the door will be almost shut. If we don't win that game, Missouri is likely going to simply be another Texas Tech. They'll be exciting, they'll be capable of winning 7-9 games in a year, but they'll never really be a threat to win the ones that matter all the time. And while it wouldn't be the worst thing ever to be a perennial Top 30 team that goes to bowls every year, I know that Mizzou fans want more. People from other Big XII schools laugh because Mizzou considers itself a football school, despite not finishing first in the conference since the 60s. Our success and/or lack of it on the football field has absolutely nothing to do with Mizzou being a football school. Mizzou is a football school because of how rabid our fanbase is. There's 50-60,000 people out there every Saturday just DYING for a win. Like Beef said, it's the reason he has to drink before the game because he gets so nervous and can't handle it sober. That's our fanbase. We want it SO badly but it keeps getting yanked away from us when we think it's so close.

Well it will never be closer than October 6, 2007. The atmosphere should top the 2003 game. The intensity should top the 2003 game. The meaning of the outcome certainly tops the 2003 game, and that was the single greatest sporting event I've ever attended. Running into Okie and Beef at midfield after the game and making "snow angels" on the Tiger logo, like we said we would, was just the culmination of the perfect day. We can top it this year. And when we win, there will be no storming the field. That will be a slap in the face to Nebraska; a way to kick them when they're down. A message that beating them has become so common, it's not worth making a big deal out of. Make no mistake, we'll make a big deal out of it, but it will be the 3rd time 5 seasons. Frankly, it will start to get old ;-)

Michael Atchison: Most of the rest of the distinguished panel have focused on football, and, of course, I’m looking forward to September 1 in St. Louis, October 6 in Columbia, November 24 in Kansas City and December 1 in San Antonio, with plenty of Chase to Chase, Chase to Tee, Chase to the ‘Copter, Chase (handing) to Tony, Chase to Tommy, Chase to Maclin, Chase to Danario, Chase to Perry, Chase to Bracey and Chase to JRay (that’s not an offense, it’s an arsenal) mixed in. I’m also looking forward to enough defensive stops so that not every game reminds me of the BYU/San Diego State score-o-ramas of my youth.

But I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t looking ahead to hoops, and I’m excited to see Norm Stewart’s induction into the Hall of Fame, the Tigers cracking the seal on the sensational new Sprint Center, DeMarre’s debut, Keon’s maturation, and just how many minutes of Hell we can expect (30? 35?) each night. Despite the loss of Kalen Grimes, I think this team can exceed some expectations. The Tigers should be fluent in Mike Anderson’s game by now, and there’s a lot of experience and a fair amount of talent and depth on this club. A top four finish and an NCAA bid are realistic goals for this team, and once you get that far, all things are possible. I’m a believer.

I’m also looking forward to one or two pre- or post-game Oil Change Stouts at Flat Branch Saloon.
ZouDave: Distinguished?
The Beef: Yeah…I don’t know who the hell he is talking about….but I think in return, he owes us all Oil Change Stouts post game at some point this year.
The Boy: I’ll take Brown Ale. And meanwhile, I have to give the same predictable answer as most others. The volleyball team could be very impressive this year, as could wrestling, baseball, softball, and about eight other sports. But all my life, football has been #1, and now Mizzou’s football team can be #1 as the Big 12 North, anyway. We’ve reached the point in Gary Pinkel’s tenure where 8-4 will be considered disappointing. It’s full-speed ahead, no turning back, et cetera, et cetera. This year shapes up in the most tense way possible—2-3 gimmes, 1 likely loss, and 8-9 ‘should win’ games. The past has not been kind to Mizzou in the ‘should win’ category, but this is a brand new day, a fresh start, clean cetera. To the extent that I can, being that I post football links on a daily basis, I’ve tried to avoid discussing actually predictions or projections. My brain just can’t handle it right now. I just want to close my eyes and wake up on September 1. Granted, I’ll be at a wedding in Minnesota on September 1, and not at the Edward Jones/TWA/Ted Drewes Dome, but still...just take me to that day.

I also can’t wait to play Hawaii in the Fiesta Bowl. Yeah, I said it.