College football, over lightly:
Gary Pinkel's record after four seasons as head coach at Missouri was 22-25 overall and 12-20 in the Big 12. In the 5 1/2 seasons since, it is 52-21 and 27-16 in the league. The Tigers are bound for a sixth straight bowl game, and Mizzou fans are pinching themselves over the possibility of it being THE bowl game.
Anything seems possible after Saturday night's 36-27 win over Oklahoma, which had been No. 1 in the BCS rankings, elevated Mizzou to 7-0 and to No. 7 in the AP poll and No. 6 in the BCS standings.
Four seasons in, though, the natives were restless even though Pinkel had inherited a program that had enjoyed just two winning records in the previous 17 years.
Toledo fans could have told them to relax. Pinkel was a so-so 23-19-2 in his first four seasons with the Rockets, a record made worse by comparison to what Gary Blackney, hired at the same time, was accomplishing at neighborhood rival Bowling Green (36-8-2).
Pinkel, of course, would get the last laugh, compiling a 50-18-1 record, including 37-9-1 in Mid-American Conference play, during his final six seasons.
There is a fiery passion burning inside Pinkel, a man who rarely displays emotion, and it is in conflict with the patience he shows in building a program. At UT, he couldn't turn the corner until he finally beat BG, which came in his fifth season. At Mizzou, the obstacle has been Oklahoma, which had won 19 of the last 20 in the series, including two one-sided decisions in recent Big 12 championship games. Pinkel was 0-7 against the Sooners.
At his press conference early last week, he introduced himself as "the coach who never beat Oklahoma." After he did, Pinkel said: "If you want to move your program up a notch respect-wise, you have to win games like this, and we'd fallen short several times. It gets frustrating, but I'm a competitor, I'm a fighter."
He also noted that "the more you win, the bigger the games get," and that's the truth as Mizzou travels to Nebraska this weekend. A win there and a repeat against Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game would have the Tigers in the middle of national title talk. Only Oregon and Auburn, if both remain unbeaten, might stand in their way.
• Doug Who? There are a lot of candidates, Pinkel included, for national coach of the year, but Doug Marrone will get some support. He is in his second season at Syracuse, once among the most relevant programs in the nation but just 14-42 from 2005-09. The Orange got a signature win Saturday at No. 20 West Virginia to improve to 5-2.
• Page One: Toledo doesn't sport much of a downfield passing game, but imagine how paltry it might be if it didn't have Eric Page. The sophomore receiver from Springfield High has 61 catches for 690 yards. No other player has caught more than 16, and no non-back has more than a dozen.
• Lights out: Recent outings have dimmed Heisman hopes for Terrelle Pryor and Denard Robinson, the quarterbacks from Ohio State and Michigan, respectively. The leaders at this point? Auburn QB Cam Newton and Oregon running back LaMichael James should rank 1-2.
• Laugh track: This from Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke after UCLA's 60-13 loss last Thursday at Oregon: "This was the Bruins wearing their Halloween costume 10 days early. They went as a bye week."
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Dave Hackenberg at:
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