Columbia, MO (KMOV) -- It's likely a good sign for the Missouri Tigers that the Oklahoma State Cowboys come to town Saturday bearing a little number next to their team's name.
That number would be a 17 to represent that this team from Stillwater, Okla., is currently ranked behind only 16 other college football teams in this country. To third-rated Missouri, this might not be a particularly impressive ranking, but it's a ranking nonetheless, but the hope from Tigers fans is that it will be enough to have the team's attention this weekend.
It isn't by any fault of the Tigers that this caution flag piece is even being written. It's simply human nature.
The 5-0 Tigers have yet to overlook any obstacle on their schedule. They've wiped the floor with their opponents in each of the last four weeks and haven't won a game by less than three touchdowns since beating Illinois by 10 points to open the season more than a month ago. But if ever there were a week for a slip-up, it's this one.
The Tigers won the most emotionally charged game of the season to date last week when they pulled out their first win in 30 years in Lincoln, Neb. They overcame some pregame hostility from the hosts to hang a 52-17 beating on the Cornhuskers in a nationally televised affair. A week from today, they'll journey to Austin for what will likely be the toughest road game on their schedule this season: a date with the Texas Longhorns.
It would be only natural for the Tigers to brush aside the opponent visiting the Zou during the in-between week. Especially when that opponent is the only one in a three-week span that isn't a perennial national power. Especially when that opponent has gone just 7-6 over each of the last two seasons. All it takes is a bit of sloppy preparation to let an inferior team into a game and possibly to ruin a season from there.
But while the Tigers haven't showed much sign of letting up to begin with, here's wondering if that number next to the Cowboys' name in the standings will have kept them wary of this team from start to finish this week.
These aren't the Oklahoma State Cowboys of years past. This is a team that has the Big XII's second-rated passer in Zac Robinson, who sits only percentage points behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and ahead of Missouri's own Heisman candidate Chase Daniel. This is a team that features the closest answer the conference has to Tiger dynamo Jeremy Maclin. Sophomore Dez Bryant also lines up at wide receiver and kick returner, and so far, he's done both rather well. Bryant is second in the Big XII in receiving yards and second in total points scored. He's caught nine touchdown passes and returned two more kicks to the painted area. Robinson, Bryant and feature back Kendall Hunter are three reasons of many why the Cowboys are less than a point behind the conference-leading Tigers in scoring average.
The visitors that will descend upon Faurot Field on Saturday can light up the scoreboard almost as well as the hosts can. The Cowboys will provide a true test in staying in the present for the Tigers.
Here's guessing the hosts will be up to the task.
Steve Weinman is a J-student at Mizzou