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No. 24 Mizzou looks for next Big 12 surprise
NORMAN, Okla. -- After a few days of film study, Gary Pinkel has given up on finding a flaw in top-ranked Oklahoma.
The tapes showed an offense that leads the nation in scoring, a defense that causes chaos with its relentess speed and a team with so much depth that it shook off a couple of injuries to key starters.
"It's pretty remarkable to see them play," the Missouri coach said. "They have players playing at a high level at absolutely every position, offensively and defensively. They lose their starting two inside linebackers and they don't miss a beat, it's like nothing ever happened."
Pinkel hopes to counter with multitalented quarterback Brad Smith, someone who gave Oklahoma fits like no other player last season.
As a redshirt freshman, Smith rolled up nearly 400 yards of offense and three touchdowns as Missouri came up just short of a huge upset in a 31-24 loss to the Sooners.
Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) gets another crack at Smith and No. 24 Missouri today.
"He can almost win a game single-handedly," defensive end Jonathan Jackson said. "We were upset after last year's game. It's in the back of everyone's mind what he did to us."
Both teams are coming off of big wins against conference rivals: Missouri was a 41-24 winner over Nebraska, while Oklahoma routed Texas 65-13.
But Oklahoma's dismantling of the then-No. 11 Longhorns raised a few eyebrows all around the country, particularly Columbia, Mo.
Quarterback Jason White threw for four touchdowns and Mark Clayton set a school record with 190 yards receiving against the country's top-rated pass defense. The Sooners forced six turnovers and turned those into five touchdowns and a field goal, quickly turning the game into the most lopsided in the rivalry's 98 years.
If there were doubts about whether Oklahoma was a dominant No. 1 before that game, there were none afterward.
"As you watch this team against a great Texas team," Pinkel said, "to see what happened in that game is pretty staggering."
But Pinkel has to feel a little better about his chances now, since Smith broke out of a slump in Missouri's upset of Nebraska last week.
Smith tied a school record with four touchdowns and had 350 yards of offense against what was then the nation's top-ranked defense. The win vaulted Missouri (5-1, 1-1) back into the Top 25 and was a reminder of how devastating Smith can be when given time to operate.
"It looked like playing us a year ago," Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said.
"It's a hopeless feeling sometimes as a defensive coach when he gets going like that ... obviously, he embarrassed us last year."
Smith will have to be at his best to help the underdog Tigers -- Oklahoma is favored by 26 points -- win in Norman for the first time since 1966.
The Sooners have easily avoided a post-Texas hangover since Stoops arrived in 1999. The Sooners are 4-0 in games following the Red River Shootout, winning by an average score of 45-13.
"They've shown that they are the No. 1 team in the country," Smith said. "They're playing well in all areas of the game."