COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A few years ago, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel had concerns about how his players would adjust to being in the Top 25.
Now, with his team ranked No. 7 in the nation, Pinkel has no such worries.
It's the Tigers' highest ranking since the 1979 team led by quarterback Phil Bradley made it to No. 5, and their No. 6 standing in the BCS is the school's best ever.
In 2003, when Missouri was 5-1 and ranked No. 23, Pinkel thinks his players paid too much attention to the poll. The Tigers got bumped twice after that.
``That's all they talked about,'' Pinkel said Monday. ``They were talking about it before it started, after it started, and when they were taking showers and going to class.
``Now, I think our players are beyond that.''
These Tigers vow not to let any of this year's success go to their heads. They also refuse to get caught looking ahead to their neutral-site game against unbeaten Kansas for the Big 12 North title later this month in Kansas City.
``Let the fans do that,'' quarterback Chase Daniel said. ``I'm sure it's fun for them to get a matchup like that.
M is a great team and we're going to have our hands full,'' Daniel added about Missouri's opponent Saturday.
That's the kind of talk Pinkel likes to hear.
Missouri is 8-1 for the first time since 1969, needs one more win for only the fourth nine-win season in school history, and is first in the nation in third-down conversions (57 percent), fourth-down conversions (100 percent) and fewest penalties (32.89 per game). All heady stuff.
But November has been a cruel month for Missouri in the past. The Tigers faded last year after being 6-0 and 7-1, losing four of their last five. That's been a trend at the school, with two November losses in each of Pinkel's first six seasons.
``We've started so fast each of the years I've been here, and then fallen off the course,'' Daniel said. ``The main thing for us is just finishing, and winning these games in November.''
Senior defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams has learned from experience to ignore the rankings. He said he didn't know Missouri was No. 7.
``Even last year we were getting into the polls a little bit,'' Williams said. ``We got hit in the mouth and said, 'I guess our ranking really doesn't mean that much.'''
Pinkel began laying the groundwork for change during the winter when he met with his seniors and discussed what needed to be done for the Tigers to become an elite team. He impressed players with statistical analysis that hammered home the importance of winning the turnover battle, finding a way to prevail in tight contests and avoiding letdowns on the road.
``I think he had some expectations, but he wanted to see how we felt so he was kind of beating around the bushes a little bit,'' Williams said. ``We just stopped him and said we wanted to do all the things necessary to win.''
Everyone plans for success. In this case, it's been a blueprint. Missouri is plus-7 in turnover ratio and 1-0 in November.
``There's no magic to this, it's real simple,'' Pinkel said. ``If you want a chance to win a championship, you've got to win in November and win no matter where you play and no matter how many injuries you have.''
Mistakes hurt Missouri in its lone loss, a 10-point setback at then-No. 4 Oklahoma. The Tigers have won three straight since then, and are coming off their most dominating performance of the year, a 55-10 victory at Colorado on Saturday.
Daniel was named Big 12 offensive player of the week after throwing for a career-best 421 yards and tying a school record with five touchdown passes. The 45-point blowout was the largest margin of victory for Missouri on the road in conference play since a 55-7 victory at Kansas in 1979.
Missouri had lost 10 of 11 at Colorado, with the last victory in 1997.
``Every offensive goal we hit and every defensive goal we hit,'' Pinkel said. ``That's never happened before. It was a very complete game.''
Now, they have to repeat it.
``I thought we'd be a pretty good team and so here we are,'' Pinkel said. ``If you take a run at this, we've got to be playing our best right now.''

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