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Big 12 Game Of The Week: Mizzou's 'Next Game At A Time' Is Desert Test Vs. The Devils

The Missouri Tigers, ranked 19th in the country in the latest USA Today coaches' poll, put their 22-game non-conference winning streak on the line Friday night against the 23rd-ranked Arizona Sun Devils in the desert in Tempe.

Missouri Tigers vs. Miami (Ohio)
Missouri Tigers vs. Miami (Ohio)

Missouri doesn't want to get too far ahead of itself. It's a long season, and coach Gary Pinkel is only concerning himself with the next game and taking everything one game at a time. The Tigers' opponent this week certainly has the full attention of Pinkel, his players and his staff. And it has our attention, too, as the Big 12 Game of the Week.

Missouri hits the road this week for a Friday night contest against the Arizona State Sun Devils and a Week 2 showdown between two nationally ranked teams. In view of the restoked rumors in the last seven days about Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and possibly Texas breaking off from the Big 12 and joining Arizona and Arizona State to form an Eastern Division of a new Pac-16 Conference, it is interesting timing that both Arizona schools are paired up this week against Big 12 opponents.

Nineteenth-ranked Missouri heads to Tempe, Ariz., on the heels of a hard-fought, season-opening 17-6 win over Miami of Ohio, expected to be one of the contenders in the Mid-American Conference this season. While the Tiger offense struggled getting on track against defending MAC champion Miami, their defense fortunately was up to the task, holding the Redhawks to a lone touchdown and 270 total yards of offense. The Missouri defensive unit ranked sixth nationally a year ago and led the Big 12 in yielding the fewest points per game (16.08).

The Missouri defense is going to have to be up for the task again this week, and the offense is going to have to get well quick if the Tigers hope to escape the desert with what would be a huge win against the No. 23 team in this week's USA Today coaches' poll. The Sun Devils, picked to finish second in the new Pac-12 South Division behind USC had their way in their opening game with the University of California-Davis, rolling to a 48-14 victory behind a 517-yard offensive output (300 passing and 217 on the ground). Arizona State also has a first-year quarterback under center in 6-8 Brock Osweiler.

Sophomore quarterback James Franklin completed 17 of 26 passes against Miami for 129 yards. Pinkel was pleased with the play of his young quarterback, and he has every confidence that Franklin will continue to get better. Coming from Pinkel, a coach that has had tremendous success at the quarterback position since coming to Missouri in 2001, that's a promising assessment.

"James did a lot of good things, and he must continually strive to get more consistent and do more things right," the MU coach said Monday in his weekly press conference. "That's what all quarterbacks do. And the more experience he has, the better he'll play."

In addition to its national ranking, Missouri will be putting its 22-game non-conference winning streak on the line in the desert against the Sun Devils. The two teams have met five times previously, with Mizzou holding a 3-2 edge in the all-time series. The Tigers are hoping for a better outcome than the last time they played at Sun Devil Stadium, when they suffered a heartbreaking 27-24 defeat to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl last December.

Asked about going on the road early in the season and facing ranked opponents, Pinkel said, "I think it's all the same. Our league is a harsh environment. The stadiums we go and play at are like Sun Devil Stadium. I look at it as an opportunity to play in some great venues, and this is certainly one.

"If you want to be good, you have to win games on the road," he said. "We all know that, so that's the challenge we have."

The Tigers must get there great pass receivers, T.J Moe and tight-end Michael Egnew more involved in the offense this week and get a little more from its running game to open up the field to its speedy receivers. Even that may not be enough to get by a tough Arizona State team playing at home. I see Arizona State winning this game in a somewhat low-scoring affair, 20-17.

By the time the Tigers and Sun Devils play on Friday night, one Big 12 game will have already been played. The other state school from Arizona, the Wildcats from Tucson, coached by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' younger brother, Mike, plays Oklahoma State at Stillwater tonight. This is a rematch of last season's Alamo Bowl, which Oklahoma State won handily, 36-10. Both teams come into the game with opening-week victories and with Oklahoma State holding down the No. 7 spot in the USA Today rankings.

There are only three other games on the docket in a light week of action for Big 12 teams. Kansas, a victor a week ago, 42-24 over Division II-A McNeese State, follows Missouri in taking on a MAC opponent, and a very good one in Northern Illinois. These two teams have only met once before, with Kansas winning 37-34 in 1983.

Iowa State and Iowa play for the Cy-Hawk Trophy in Ames this weekend in their annual rivalry game, and Texas, ranked 21st in the country this week, hosts BYU, who the Big 12, ironically,  reportedly is actively recruiting in an attempt to get the Cougars to join the conference. The cougars and Longhorns have met only twice before, with BYU winning both times.

Big 12 Football Week 2 Predictions

Thursday, September 8
Arizona 20 @ OKLAHOMA STATE 38

Friday, September 9
Missouri 17 @ ARIZONA STATE 20

Saturday, September 10
IOWA 21 @ Iowa State 13
NORTHERN ILLINOIS 24 @ Kansas 16
Brigham Young 13 @ TEXAS 27

Last week's picks: 10-0