WACO, Texas (AP) -- Dreams of a national championship dashed by consecutive losses, the Missouri Tigers have narrowed their focus.
While the Big 12 North title and a return to the league's championship game remain a very distinct possibility for the 14th-ranked Tigers, even that is more broad than coach Gary Pinkel wants his team to consider.
After losses to top-ranked Texas and No. 9 Oklahoma State, Pinkel challenged his team to hone in on the week at hand and not the long-range possibilities. The Tigers (6-2, 2-2 Big 12) responded with their biggest conference shutout ever, and first in the Big 12, 58-0 over Colorado after being held to 54 points combined in their losses.
This week, the focus is on a trip to Baylor (3-5, 1-3), where Mizzou is a nearly three-touchdown favorite Saturday.
"It wasn't a gimmick. It was probably my frustration," Pinkel said of the "sole focus" challenge to his team after the 56-31 loss at Texas two weeks ago.
"My concern was that they would lose focus. We had to put an abrupt stop to that. So we took it very, very seriously," he said. "We're going to try and do the same thing this week."
With their huge rebound victory, the Chase Daniel and Tigers start November tied for the North lead with Nebraska and Kansas -- their 2-2 mark would put them fifth in the South. Missouri has already beaten the Cornhuskers and plays its regular-season finale against the Jayhawks, after two more games in which the Tigers should also be favored to win.
But, first comes Baylor, which begins a brutal closing month for first-year coach Art Briles and standout freshman quarterback Robert Griffin.
After homecoming against Mizzou, the Bears -- who have to win at least three games to be bowl eligible -- still have road games left against Texas and No. 6 Texas Tech, sandwiching the home finale against Texas A&M.
Baylor had a 20-17 halftime lead at Nebraska last weekend, but didn't score again and lost 32-20.
"Our guys really played with a lot of effort, passion and attitude, and we just weren't able to cross the bridge," Briles said. "I take a lot of that personally on me because I've been to the road before a few times and made it across. I need to make sure all of our guys and coaches understand what we have to do to get there."
Griffin has thrown 175 passes without an interception (with nine touchdowns), an FBS record for a freshman at the start of a career and the overall Baylor record. He has also rushed for 554 yards and nine TDs, with three 100-yard games -- already a career school record for quarterbacks.
The Baylor freshman reminds many of the Tigers of their former dual-threat quarterback. Brad Smith was the first major college quarterback to finish his career (2002-05) with 8,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards.
"He has a lot of poise. I'm very impressed how he manages himself as a young player in the arena of Big 12 football," Pinkel said of Griffin. "I'm not saying he's Brad Smith, or better. But who knows what he's going to turn into. He's certainly a guy like J Mac, who can touch the ball and change the game."
J Mac is Missouri's sensational sophomore Jeremy Maclin, the NCAA leader with 195.3 all-purpose yards a game who needs only 98 more to hold the school's career record.
Maclin is a return threat and a top receiver for Daniel. Maclin had 11 catches for 134 yards and two TDs against Colorado, and has averaged 125 receiving yards the past six games.
"Trust, man. That's the key thing when it comes to receiver/quarterback relationships, how much they trust you and rely on you," Maclin said. "I'm making enough plays where he feels like he can trust me."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)