LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel knows that if his destination is New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, he must navigate the road through Nebraska.
The fourth-ranked Tigers (4-0) have a long history of flopping in Lincoln against the Cornhuskers (3-1), but this year they seem to have a team that can win here for the first time since 1978.
Daniel torched Nebraska for 401 yards passing in last year's 41-6 win in Columbia. A similar performance Saturday night would go a long way in getting him invited back to the Big Apple as a Heisman finalist -- even further than the View-Masters with Daniel's highlights that Missouri has sent to voters and media members.
"For me, personally, it's big," Daniel said. "A lot of voters will be looking at that game. But that's in the back of my mind. What's in front is leading this team to victory and being the leader they need. If we're efficient, we'll keep our defense off the field as much as possible and we can score a lot of points, hopefully."
Missouri has scored a lot so far, almost 54 a game.
Daniel is off to his best start in his three years as the starter. He threw for a career-high 439 yards and set a Big 12 record with 20 straight completions in his last game against Buffalo. For the season, he's thrown 12 touchdown passes and one interception.
Just as impressive, he's completing 75.9 percent of his passes (101-of-133).
"The stats are skewed (by) the competition we played," Daniel said, referring to the fact that so far Illinois was Missouri's only opponent from a BCS conference.
That's not to say Daniel expects any less of himself. He's so caught up in efficiency that he tracks his statistics in practice.
"You can count on one hand how many balls hit the ground," Daniel said. "We'd like it to be zero. Usually it's one, two or three a week in live drills or seven-on-seven. There's only one time where we had four balls hit the ground in practice."
Daniel picked apart Nebraska's defense last year. Former defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove used a scheme that employed three pass rushers, and everyone else dropped into coverage. Daniel mocked the scheme after the game, calling it "high school stuff."
Nebraska first-year coach Bo Pelini will be more creative. Before moving on to defensive coordinator jobs at Oklahoma and LSU, Pelini had one of the nation's top defenses when he was Nebraska's coordinator in 2003. Pelini isn't showing his hand, but he said he won't be predictable.
The key, Pelini said, is to disrupt Daniel's rhythm.
Easier said than done.
Daniel has been sacked once in 134 times he's looked to pass. He sits deep in the shotgun and releases the ball quickly.
"You can't let him sit back there and make a sandwich," Pelini said. "You've got to give them a lot of different looks and mix it up."
Nebraska's defense has been nothing special so far. The Huskers are giving up 355 yards a game, and Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State each had a pass play of longer than 50 yards.
The Huskers will play a lot of dime defense, with six defensive backs, but only two players in the secondary have started a game before this season.
Missouri has four receivers who have caught at least 16 passes through four games, led by tight end Chase Coffman (28 for 379 yards) and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (26-391).
"This is a team that is waiting for you to make a mistake so they can make that huge play," Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.
With unbeatens Oklahoma State and Texas coming up the next two weeks for Missouri, Daniel will have plenty of chances to make big plays and enhance his Heisman bid.
Daniel won't go head-to-head with Heisman contender Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in the regular season, though they could meet in the Big 12 title game.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says Daniel's level of play so far is an indicator of where the senior quarterback wants to be in December.
Daniel finished fourth in the Heisman voting last year, well behind winner Tim Tebow of Florida.
"Everyone knew it was Tebow's trophy to lose. The best person won it last year," Daniel said. "I was there for the ride."
Now Daniel wants to put himself out front.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)