The 2010 season for the Mizzou Tigers opens this morning, not in Columbia, but about 100 miles to the east at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. The State Farm Arch Rivalry between the Tigers and the Illinois Fighting Illini will kickoff this morning for the final time at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Today will mark the sixth and final time that the two border rivals will meet in St. Louis, as the 2010 game is the last year of the agreement. All five previous meetings in the Dome have gone Mizzou’s way, as the Tigers claimed a 33-20 win in 2002, followed by a 22-15 win in 2003.
After three years off, a four-year series resumed in 2007, with MU claiming a 40-34 win, followed by a 52-42 win in 2008. Last year, it was all Mizzou as the coming out party for Blaine Gabbert ended with a 37-9 win.
This will be the 24th meeting between the Tigers and the Illini. Mizzou holds a 16-7 edge in the series, based largely on the strength of taking 9-of-11games between the rivals in a stretch spanning 1949 to 1983.
Since resuming the rivalry in 2002, Mizzou has been on the winning side all five times, but all of the games have been close and competitive to the end.
Illinois is the most commonly-played non-conference opponent in MU history, along with SMU. The previous 23 games played vs. Illinois is tied for the most alltime for a non-conference opponent, and today’s game will push the Illini all alone into the top spot.
In its previous 119 seasons, Mizzou stands 75-39-5 alltime in season openers. The Tigers have won 8 straight season openers, and 12-of-13 dating back to 1997.
It’s quite a different feel entering the season for the Tiger football program, compared to 2009. Gary Pinkel’s squad was one of the youngest in the country a year ago, but the Tigers managed eight wins and a fifth-straight bowl game appearance.
This all happening in spite of a depth chart that included 34-of-51 players being either freshmen or sophomores to start the year.
In 2010, Mizzou enters the season, well, seasoned. Seventeen starters from 2009 return to the fold, including eight on each side of the ball, plus place kick Grant Ressel, who won 1st-Team All-American honors for his record-setting season.
Today marks the second season for Gabbert to be the commander of the Mizzou Tiger offense. In 2009, Gabbert lived up to advance billing as the highly-recruited signal caller threw for 3,593 yards and 24 TDs with only 9 INTs, as he helped guide the Tigers to 8 wins in his first year as a starter.
Gabbert ended 2009 ranked 2nd in the Big 12 Conference, 29th nationally, in passing efficiency, with a rating of 140.5. He was also 4th in the Big 12 and 11th in the NCAA in total offense, averaging 292 yards per game.
Mizzou’s DE Aldon Smith, is also back for his second timearound in a Tiger uniform, and he’s looking to build on his redshirt freshman season from a year ago that saw him earn Big 12 Defensive Freshman & Newcomer of the Year, as well as 1st-Team Freshman All-American honors.
Smith ended his freshman season with 64 tackles in all, including team-high totals in tackles for loss, 19, and QB sacks, 11.5. 11.5 for 99 yards. The sack total broke the MU single-season sacks record of 11.0 set in 2000 by All-American Justin Smith, who is now in his 10th year in the NFL.
Smith’s sack total led all of the NCAA’s freshmen in 2010, and ranked 9th among all players. He begins 2010 on the watch lists for the Nagurski Trophy, the Hendricks Award and the Bednarik Award, and is a consensus pre-season 1st-Team All-Big 12 pick.
Mizzou will honor a fallen former teammate today against Illinois, as the Tigers will wear a “DS” sticker on their helmets to pay tribute to Daniel Schatz. Schatz, a Sullivan native, was killed in an automobile accident on August 5th in the St. Louis area.
Schatz was a walk-on student-athlete who played quarterback on the offensive scout team in 2009, and then moved to the secondary in the spring of 2010. Schatz decided after spring ball that he wanted to transfer to Westminster College in Fulton, where he planned to play alongside his brother.
Kick off for the Arch Rivalry will be this morning at 11:30 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.