Missouri Tigers, Sans Derrick Washington, Open Season Against Illinois Fighting Illini

On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers open their 2010 season against the Illinois Fighting Illini in St. Louis for the fourth consecutive year. RPT of Rock M Nation has a look at what SB Nation Kansas City readers need to know as they prepare for the 2010 Arch Rivalry.

Consuming the proper amount of smoked meats and screwdrivers prior to Missouri and Illinois' 11:30 a.m. kickoff in St. Louis on Saturday is a task with which SB Nation Kansas City sadly can not help. But making sure you're armed with all the pregame knowledge you need? We're ready and at your service:

Narrative TV Announcers Will Make You Sick of Hearing: Derrick Washington's Legal Imbroglio

Make no mistake about it -- Washington's legal strife and subsequent "permanent suspension" is THE story, and justifiably so. By most accounts, Washington was the most impressive player on the field for fall camp, as the would-be third-year starter shed pounds in the offseason and reportedly found an extra gear that had laid dormant since midway through his sophomore year. Really, the more interesting angle of the story is the disconnect between Missouri's recent perception as a rogue program and Gary Pinkel's reputation as a stern disciplinarian. Missouri beat writer Dave Matter posed a question on Twitter last weekend: Is a disciplinarian coach defined by his response to rule-breakers or by not having them in the first place? Your answer probably determines your assessment of Gary Pinkel's ability to dole out justice properly.

Narrative You Really Should Be Hearing More About: Farewell to the Arch Rivalry?

The "Arch Rivalry," a somewhat hackneyed name if there ever was one, comes to a close (or a cease fire, at least) as soon as the Tigers and Illini finish up on Saturday. Though the football series never carried the panache of the basketball rivalry, Missouri had expressed interest in continuing the series, and when you think about it, why wouldn't they? The Tigers are 3-0 since the renewal of the series in 2007, and in the process, Missouri has reopened recruiting roads and relationships in The Lou, an area that was frostier to Missouri coaches than an ice cold Budweister when Gary Pinkel originally arrived in Columbia. Pinkel and Mizzou AD Mike Alden have expressed interest in playing Illinois something to the effect of six times a decade, as the neutral site agreement has been notably good to the Tigers. Illinois administrators (and bloggers, for that matter) have been much more hesitant in favoring continuing any kind of series with Missouri. But with the new-look Big 12 coming into form and Illinois now wary of dates with the Tigers, what does the disappearance of the Arch Rivalry mean for Missouri's non-conference slates? Stay tuned.

In A "Show Me" State This Week: Tailback Kendial Lawrence

So maybe you heard that Derrick Washington won't be playing Saturday? His absence means that the No. 1 job is now in the hands of true sophomore Kendial Lawrence, who saw limited carries in 2009. While Lawrence has nowhere near the experience of Washington, it'd be erroneous to say he lacks the upside. Lawrence is a small, shifty back out of North Texas who almost seems tailor-made for Missouri's offensive scheme. Whereas Washington was the steady, powerful runner with an uncanny ability to fall forward, Lawrence can be a little bit more high risk, high reward. Rock M Nation is high on Lawrence (like really, really high), but until he gets a chance to carry the load, it's all speculation on everyone's part. His first chance should come on Saturday.

For Your Illinois-Themed iPod Playlist: Jason Eady & The Wayward Apostles, "Redemption"

"Redemption smells like gasoline and burns like desire."

That Rose Bowl appearance for Illinois seems like a lot longer ago than the 2007 season, doesn't it? Illinois coach Ron Zook's modus operandi throughout his career has been as a charismatic recruiter/public speaker but a poor gameday coach. Zook received a stay of execution over the offseason, and if there's ever going to be a final chance for redemption, this is probably it for Zook. The downer? It's a young football team with redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase, a Kansas City native, at quarterback. Zook is 12-35 at Illinois in seasons not including 2007, so it's redemption or bust for the Zook era in Champaign.

For Your Mizzou-Themed iPod Playlist: Kanye West, "Homecoming"

"Do you think about me now and then?
Do you think about me now and then?
'Cause I'm comin' home again."

Illinois didn't think much of Blaine Gabbert heading into last season. Gabbert, or "Not Chase Daniel" as he was best known by the Illinois fan base, returned home to St. Louis in 2009 and set the skeptical Illini ablaze. In his first collegiate start, Gabbert went 25-for-33 for 319 yards and three touchdowns through the air in addition to 39 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Regardless of how futile Illinois later proved in the final 11 games of the season, it was still one of Gabbert's best performances of the year. There will be no such element of surprise this season. Gabbert's comin' home again. Is Illinois up to the task of providing some resistance this time around?

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