Few could have expected what happened last November 24 when the annual border war between Missouri and Kansas was waged for the Big 12 North title. Mizzou's 38-26 win at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium put the program in the Big 12 title game for the first time in school history. The Tigers fell to Oklahoma, 38-17, but rebounded to wallop Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, 38-7. ("We beat the team that beat the national champion," Daniel pointed out). The result was a breakthrough 12-2 campaign that actually saw the program ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season. Fast forward seven months and Missouri is the unanimous choice among Big 12 media to repeat as Northern Division champs.
"We used to be the hunter and now we're the hunted," Daniel observed. "And we can get a lot better."
Oklahoma rotates off the regular season slate this season, but the Tigers must travel to Nebraska, where Missouri has not won since 1978. But it's been much longer -- centuries, in fact, since Mizzou has tasted sweet victory in Austin.
"We haven't won at Texas since 1893, or something like that," Daniel said.
For the record, Missouri left Austin with a 10-0 shutout to conclude the 1896 to conclude Harry Robinson's only season as a Texas coach.
Granted, it was an intermittent series until the two literally launched the Big 12 Conference with Texas' 40-10 on August 31, 1996. Missouri's last win against Texas came the following season in Columbia during coach John Mackovic's swan song. Since then, Mack Brown is a spotless 4-0 against the Tigers.
Daniel thought he would spend his collegiate years on the winning side of that series until Texas hitched its wagon to Five-Star QB recruit Ryan Perrilloux in 2004. Longhorn coaches made a late appeal for Daniel to reconsider his verbal to Missouri when it became apparent that Perilloux would decommit in favor of LSU. Daniel, of course, stuck to his word and insists he did not take Texas' snub personally.
"I wasn't mad at Texas just because I didn't get recruited by them. It was a business decision. I wasn't their guy. That's how the dice rolled, and I couldn't be happier where I am right now."
Bottom line: the place where Daniel is 'right now' is the only Heisman Trophy finalist returning this season other than 2007 winner Florida QB Tim Tebow. It follows a campaign where Daniel set school records for total offense (4,559 yards), passing yards (4,306) and touchdowns (33).
"Am I the best quarterback in the Big 12? Of course. I think I am. It's a hard question to answer without sounding cocky."
In a league loaded with experienced quarterbacks it maybe be just as hard to name it's second-best field general? Do you go with 2007 NCAA passing leader Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell? Or, how about NCAA passing efficiency leader Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford?
"It's Colt McCoy," Daniel replied without hesitation. "Why? Because I know him. He's a friend of mine so, of course, I've got to give it to him."
It helps that Daniel has generally run the type of up-tempo, spread offense "since the eighth grade". The scheme has proliferated across college campuses during the past decade but, by the end of 2007, Mizzou ranked fifth in total offense (490.3 ypg) and eighth in scoring (39.9 ppg).
"Our tempo is so fast that we snap the ball with 20 seconds left on the play clock," Daniel said. "Defenses are worn out by the end of an eight- or nine-play drive. Their pass-rush decreases and we have more time to throw the ball."
So, how do you stop a team that also ranked eighth last season in passing offense (314.1 ypg)?
"You have to have a ridiculously good defensive line and then drop back and play good coverage behind it," Daniel offered. "Not many teams have that nationally. About the only teams we played last year that was really good like that were Illinois and Oklahoma. Those were the only two teams that got pressure on us. During the Big 12 Championship game, I was on the phone with the coaches up the box and I asked how it was Oklahoma was getting so much pressure on me. They said, 'Chase, they're bringing just four every time'."
As impressive as are Daniel's numbers, his face lights up when he speaks of the nine returning defensive starters from last year's squad. All-American WR Jeremy Maclin returns as a favorite target as does highly-regarded TE Chase Coffman.
"A lot of different things still have to go right for us," Daniel concluded. "We have to go in the right direction. We have to win a whole bunch of games."
Atop his Wish List for wins, it seems, is the game earmarked for October 18.