Daniel Driving Missouri On BCS Run

Tigers QB has made a name for himself with Mizzou on the verge of a national title

Nov. 30, 2007

College Football Preview: Week 14

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> B.J.: A Crazy 2007  |  Sorenson: 10 Questions  |   Braff: Easy Road To The Big Easy For Two
> Trev: Some Coaching Changes Just Ludicrous  |  Best Title Game Matchup   |  Roland: LSU Will Lose
> Palm: A Merciful End To The BCS  |  Blackburn: Here To Stay  |  Hart: Don't Count Out Mizzou
> Caparell: Daniel Driving Missouri On BCS Run  |  Crystal Ball: Weekend Predictions

By Adam Caparell




Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
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It still bothers Chase Daniel when people spell his name wrong.


"It gets pretty annoying at times," Daniel said. "People say, `Who's this Chase Daniels?' I'm like, `I don't know how he is.'"


Fortunately for Daniel, the days of sportswriters, media members and casual college football fans unintentionally butchering his last name seem to be in the past.


And chances are, even your casual sports fan knows who the 6-foot quarterback is, now that he has Missouri poised to reach the BCS Championship game and has also has vaulted himself into a serious Heisman Trophy contender with a scintillating second half of the season.




That second half truly began after the Tigers' sixth game of the season, in which they suffered a hard-fought 10-point loss to then-No. 6 Oklahoma in Norman in front of 85,000 hostile Sooners fans.


"We had a lead going into fourth quarter, we made some mistakes, they created some mistakes, so that's how you look at it," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I think our team at that time said, 'Hey, we can be pretty good. If we keep getting better, we might have a chance at this.'"


It's that experience, that near miss on the road, that Daniel and the Tigers are drawing upon as they get ready to face Oklahoma for the second time this year, on Saturday in the Big 12 Championship game. They took the lessons learned in October and haven't looked back since. But this time around, the stakes are much, much higher.

Missouri, of course, is the No. 1 team in the nation, the No. 1 team in the BCS standings and a win away from securing a berth in the BCS Championship game, a place no one thought we'd see the Tigers before the season began.


But thanks in large part to Daniel, Missouri continues to stay afloat in the uncharted BCS waters while everyone around them has sunk.


In the six games since the Oct. 13 loss to Oklahoma, Daniel has thrown for nearly 1,900 yards, 17 touchdowns and just three picks, one of which has come in the month of November, while Missouri has done nothing but win. Meanwhile every team in front of them in the polls - 14 teams except for West Virginia - has lost over that six game stretch.


To avoid a fatal second loss, the Tigers have a very tough task at hand with the Sooners. Widely regarded as one of the most well-rounded teams in the country, Oklahoma is actually favored by three points in the game. It's not every day you see the No. 1 team in the nation an underdog at a neutral site, but that just goes to show the amount of respect the oddsmakers and general public have for Oklahoma. And they know, just like the Tigers, how difficult it will be to hand the Sooners their third loss of the season.


"They're definitely the best team we've faced, offensively defensively and special teams-wise," Daniel said. "We have our work cut out for us."


Convention would say that playing a team for the second time in one season would make things a little bit easier in the rematch. Daniel will tell you otherwise.


"It's very tough to play the same football team twice in the same year, no matter who it is," Daniel said. "You've obviously done everything you can for the first game to prepare as well as you can and then six or seven games later you play them again."


For all the different defensive looks the Sooners will throw at Daniel and the Missouri offense, the Tigers still have to contend with Oklahoma's considerable speed and athleticism that no other unit in the Big 12 can rival.


"They're an unbelievable defense and they're flying to the ball and getting turnovers," Daniel said.


But there is no quarterback in the country playing better than Daniel this side of Tim Tebow. And just like Tebow, Daniel's a Heisman contender whose campaign has really ramped up the past several weeks.


"It's happened pretty fast," Daniel said. "I think everyone around here has done a great job promoting me for that award. For the most part it's come very, very fast. But we've been able to take it all in stride."


The individual awards and attention are not exactly Daniel's thing. A lot of praise has been heaped on him rather suddenly and he'd prefer to see the team get the bulk of it.


"I'm all about my teammates, I play for them," Daniel said. "All these awards are great and all this publicity about this team is great because for the most part, it's about these 80 people in that locker room that grind every day."


You'd expect to see a talent like Daniel at a more prominent football school, but how he ended up at Missouri is an interesting story. From Southlake, Texas Daniel was courted by roughly 25-30 different schools, but narrowed his choices down to Stanford and Missouri. The academics the Cardinal offered were a big pull, but Daniel decided on the Tigers for a number of reasons.


He wanted to feel comfortable with the football program and the coaching staff, but he also wanted to go to a school where he felt comfortable with their business program. Daniel got a chance to meet the dean of the business school, who made him feel right at home. Then on his way back from the unofficial visit to Missouri, Daniel was in the car with his mother when he made up his mind about where he wanted to play. He told her Missouri was his choice, committing to the Tigers before he had made an official visit. 


Now Daniel gets to return home to Texas where as many as 45 friends and family will see him play in the biggest game in Missouri's history in San Antonio.


"Going back to Texas is a big deal for me," Daniel said. "I'm going to have a whole bunch of people there from Southlake and surrounding cities, like Irving, from where I'm from. It's going to be a big deal for me and I'm so glad they get to watch me in person. Missouri isn't a short trip from Dallas. San Antonio is a little bit closer so it'll be fun for me."


The bigger deal, of course, would be winning Saturday. The Tigers haven't won a conference championship since 1969 and have never won a national championship. Can Daniel continue the Tigers' most unexpected run?


"To cap it off with a title would be unbelievable. It'd be the dream season and hopefully with a win we'd be headed down to New Orleans," Daniel said.


If that happens, Daniel could be headed to household name status. And at that point there'd be no excuse left for spelling his name wrong.