COLUMBIA, Mo. — In 2007, Missouri could have won the Big 12 title. Boasted the Heisman Trophy winner. Maybe even brought home the national championship.
Had it not been for Oklahoma.
Tonight at Faurot Field with ESPN GameDay on hand, the Tigers have another opportunity to cast OU out of their heads — a place the Sooners have resided for some time.
OU has won 19 of 20 in this one-sided series, including all seven with Bob Stoops as coach.
In 2002, the Sooners overcame Missouri quarterback Brad Smith with a fourth-quarter fake field goal that resulted in the game-winning touchdown.
In 2006, OU came away with its first road victory of the season at then 7-1 Missouri. Two interceptions, a fumble, a blocked punt and a roughing the kicker penalty set up every score the Sooners posted.
A year later, Missouri fielded its best team in school history. A team ranked No. 1 heading into the Big 12 Championship, despite suffering a 10-point loss in Norman earlier in the season.
But Chase Daniel and those Tigers got walloped worse than the first time by a Sooner squad that was good, but, as the Fiesta Bowl proved, certainly not great by OU standards.
When Missouri finally did play a great OU team the following season — again in the Big 12 Championship — the Tigers lost by 41.
The Sooners have such a hold on all things Missouri, one of its beat writers tried to explain in an article this week that OU won in 2002 and 2008 due in part to motivation it generated from fabricated bulletin board material.
The Sooners may have done some fabricating. But it borders on absurdity to suggest that had much to do with those end results. Plus, the article in of itself provides OU with plenty of bulletin board material this time around.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel insists past flops against the Sooners hold no bearing in this game.
"We don't really go there," he said. "I don't think that's something we'll talk about that much. It's a new year, new players, different times. We're just focusing on preparing our best game."
But over the summer at Big 12 media days, two of Missouri's captains admitted previous debacles had "vs. Oklahoma" highlighted on the team's schedule, especially among the elder players.
"Since I've been here, we've never beaten them," senior cornerback Kevin Rutland told The Oklahoman then. "So it's a big game for me, and our entire team. Losing to them in both championship games, it hurt.
"So, we'll be ready for them."
There is hope for the Tigers this game with OU could be different.
On top of enjoying another prolific offense, Missouri appears to have its best defense in the Pinkel era. The Tigers rank second nationally in scoring defense, and in five of their six games have surrendered 13 points or less.
Missouri is coming off its most impressive win since 2007, stomping Texas A&M in College Station 30-9. The Tigers sacked Aggie quarterback Jerrod Johnson seven times, and now get back Aldon Smith, who had missed Missouri's previous three games with a cracked fibula. Smith, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, set a school record with 11.5 sacks last season.
"We're probably playing as good team defense" as ever, Pinkel said. "I don't know if we have a lot of great players on defense. But we have some good ones."
The Tigers will also be playing before a sellout crowd that will be jacked, considering it's homecoming, with GameDay in the house and OU on the field.
But until defeated, the Sooners will be in Missouri's head, too. And it's not going to be easy for Mizzou to get them out.