COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- If history is any indication, Missouri can expect a lopsided victory Saturday against lower-division opponent Furman.
Recent performance is another matter. An uneven effort by the Tigers could easily result in a late-game deficit against a seemingly overmatched underdog -- a scenario that played out last week when Bowling Green took a 14-point lead late into the third quarter before Missouri (2-0) prevailed 27-20.
Right guard Kurtis Gregory, a graduate student who has started 30 consecutive games on the offensive line, is reminding his less-experienced teammates to not look past Furman (2-0), a Greenville, S.C., private school with fewer than 3,000 undergraduates.
The Paladins play in the Southern Conference, home to noted giant-killer Appalachian State. That Football Championship Subdivision power went to Ann Arbor two years ago and knocked off then-No. 5 Michigan.
"No team ever goes into a game thinking they're going to lose," Gregory said. "They're coming here with every intention of beating us. We've got to keep that in mind. They have nothing to lose."
Missouri's shaky performance against Bowling Green sent the Tigers out of the AP rankings after a week's stay at No. 25. They entered the poll after an impressive win over Illinois to open the season.
Coach Gary Pinkel said the departure doesn't much matter. Junior running back Derrick Washington took the demotion more personally.
"It makes us more hungry," he said. "We think we should be ranked, but that's not our choice."
Since 1992, Missouri is 8-0 against teams from the FCS, formerly known as Division I-AA. That includes a 52-3 shellacking of Southeast Missouri State in 2008 and a 37-0 pasting of Eastern Illinois in 2003. The smallest margin of victory in those eight games was 21 points.
Furman will earn a $450,000 guarantee for its trip to Columbia. They'll get another healthy paycheck in November with a visit to Auburn.
The Paladins are coming off a 38-20 conference road win against Chattanooga. They use a spread offense but averaged more than 200 yards rushing in their first two wins.
Coach Bobby Lamb, a former Furman quarterback, described a pattern in FCS matchups against top-tier teams: tight first halves followed by big-school dominance in the second half "when their depth and size just wear you down."
Furman followed that pattern in its most recent matchup against a BCS team. They trailed Virginia Tech last year 3-0 at halftime before losing 24-7.
While most of his players grew up in ACC and SEC country, Lamb said they will have no problem finding inspiration against an unfamiliar Big 12 opponent.
"This is their time to shine on the big stage ... and show they can play at that level," he said.
Whatever the outcome, the stage will be far bigger than Furman's usual performances.
In his weekly conference call with reporters, Lamb lauded the crowd of 11,201 at Chattanooga. Memorial Stadium, Missouri's home field, has a capacity of 71,004. Attendance at the Bowling Green game was 65,401.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)