AMES, Iowa -- Missouri's biggest focus entering the season was winning the Big 12 North title. The Tigers accomplished that goal on Saturday night and put themselves in position for the next one -- the conference crown.
Chase Daniel threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns and No. 12 Missouri clinched a spot in its second straight conference championship game by crushing Iowa State 52-20.
The Tigers, who lost to Oklahoma 38-17 in the 2007 Big 12 title game, wrap up their season with rival Kansas in two weeks. Their opponent on Dec. 6 in Kansas City is anyone's guess, with Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech all still in the mix in the South.
Missouri's own BCS title game hopes vanished with losses to Oklahoma State and Texas, but the Tigers still may have a say in which team gets there.
"We reached this plateau last year, and we don't want this to be a plateau for us. We want to keep going," Daniel said. "We've got to focus on Kansas, and then whoever comes out of the Big 12 South circus is going to play us, so we'll see what happens."
Swirling winds and temperatures in the high 20s had little effect on Daniel and Missouri's high-flying offense. Daniel went 32-of-40 and completed his first 16 passes as the Tigers (9-2, 5-2) jumped out to a 31-7 halftime lead.
"I knew the senior leadership on this team would step up and we would play to the best of our ability and get this team going," Daniel said. "Why stop now?"
Austen Arnaud threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns for Iowa State (2-9, 0-7), setting a school record with 36 completions. The Cyclones have lost nine straight.
Grant Mahoney hit field goals of 47 and 38 yards to made it 31-13, but Maclin answered by taking a Daniel pass 43 yards for a touchdown with 4:05 left in the third quarter.
Collin Franklin's 25-yard TD catch cut Iowa State's deficit to 38-20. But Jimmy Jackson's 2-yard plunge early in the fourth put the Tigers back ahead 45-20, and Carl Gettis picked off Arnaud at the goal line midway through the quarter.
Jackson ran for a 6-yard touchdown with 3:23 left.
Missouri was nearly perfect in the first half. And even when the Tigers slipped up, they rectified things in a hurry.
Allen Bell picked off Daniel at the Cyclones 10 early in the second quarter, but William Moore returned the favor with an interception off Arnaud three plays later, running it back for a 17-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
Iowa State responded with 5:02 left in the first half on a 1-yard TD pass from Arnaud to Patrick Neal. It took Missouri just 51 seconds to get those points back.
On a simple off-tackle run, Derrick Washington cut it back inside, slipped past a defender and ran 52 yards for his second touchdown of the game. Jeff Wolfert hit a 30-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
With the wind chill at 26 and their team facing a 31-7 deficit, thousands of Iowa State fans used the halftime break as an opportunity to head home.
Daniel was at his best early on, directing a pair of long scoring drives to put Missouri ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Daniel found Tommy Saunders for a 3-yard TD to open the scoring, and then marched the Tigers on a 17-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 6:29. Washington capped it with a 2-yard run.
"We gave up too many plays and with Chase, he is going to put the ball about where he needs to put it every time," Iowa State coach Gene Chizik said. "We didn't play very well on defense."
Missouri's victory also means that the showdown at Arrowhead Stadium against Kansas will be mostly for pride, rather than the de facto North title game it appeared it could be in August.
Kansas lost 35-7 to Texas on Saturday. That, along with Missouri's victory, eliminated the Jayhawks from the division title hunt -- and the Tigers knew the scenario before the game started.
Missouri played it cool once the final whistle blew. But the Tigers whooped it up in the locker room shortly thereafter, knowing they had reached a milestone they set for themselves in August.
"You should never take it for granted. You never say, 'Well let's move on.' You got to enjoy it because it's hard to do," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "Now we'll see what we can do with it."
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