Columbia, MO (KMOV) -- Overheard on Saturday afternoon in the press box at Faurot Field just minutes before kickoff: "This is what it's going to be about. This team and the top high school teams in Kansas City and in St. Louis, too. That's going to be what gets the fans in these parts going this year."
After the events of this weekend, the accuracy of that statement is stronger than ever.
This is shaping up to be an extraordinary year for the currently 4-0 Missouri Tigers. Quarterback Chase Daniel is a Heisman candidate. Jeremy Maclin continues to set the college football world on fire in his second season. Sean Weatherspoon is ratcheting up the energy defensively each week. This Tigers team is scoring, and it is winning. Winning big, in fact. A year after the team narrowly missed a shot at a BCS bowl berth, there is legitimate national championship hype in Columbia.
That comes with plenty of attention in its own right. But the present situation in Missouri sports accentuates that.
Two years removed from being 83-win World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals have all but fallen out of playoff contention and are struggling to finish the season with a .500 record. The Kansas City Royals are entrenched in their standard September oblivion. That's the good news on the pro sports front in Missouri.
The football teams are in all sorts of trouble. The state of Missouri may boast the National Football League's two worst teams in 2008. Chiefs coach Herman Edwards can't seem to settle on a quarterback and watched his team get wiped out in Atlanta on Sunday. Rams coach Scott Linehan is hanging on to his job by a thread, and the pounding the Rams took in Seattle this weekend didn't help. Both local teams are winless, and that may not be changing any time soon.
What all this means is that the Tigers are in a special situation this season. In a perfect confluence of factors, this is the team with a chance to realize dreams of glory for Missouri sports fans this autumn and winter. The baseball teams are done. The football teams may be done while they've barely begun. Meanwhile, the Mid-Missouri boys in Columbia (nearly splitting the difference between St. Louis and Kansas City) keep rolling up the points and the victories on a weekly basis.
They have a week off, and then conference play begins. As long as the Tigers can keep taking care of business, they may have the headlines and the limelight all to themselves. It is the black and gold's time to shine.
Steve Weinman is a Mizzou J-student