It's on the walk down the blocks near Memorial Stadium, hours before kickoff, that this feels most like football country. Lively young faces, a few of them painted, most of them smiling. Sweet-smelling smoke clouds mushrooming above grills. Sometimes, great ideas even come from the pre-game revelers.
A group that calls itself "The 11th & Mississippi Tailgate Family" and speaks only under that collective name, urges a dress code for today's game against heavy underdog Nebraska. The 11th & Mississippi (T.E.A.M.) Tailgate Family, which boasts "biscuits and gravy so good they will change your religion," is calling for a blue-out.
Few things have angered the hard-core KU football fan base more through the years than Nebraska fans getting their hands on so many tickets and painting the stands red. A KU fan wearing red in a game such as today's could result in a misleading perception of Nebraska's presence in the stands. Wearing a neutral color could be mistaken for ambivalence. Blue it is.
Russell Robinson, senior point guard on the basketball team, is on board.
"If everybody's wearing blue, I'm wearing blue," Robinson said.
Once T.E.A.M. Tailgate Family and the rest of the pregame consumers of good times depart the atmosphere that feels so much like football country, the next question is, have the students become as comfortable with the success of the football program as the players have themselves? Do the students who pack the stands and spill so much emotional support onto the field to fuel their peers believe the Kansas football team deserves to be ranked eighth in the nation and favored by 19 points over Nebraska?
If the answers to those questions are yes, then the students won't even think about doing what they did three times two years ago. The thought of storming Kivisto Field and uprooting the goal posts won't even occur to them. To do so would be a serious breach of college-football-fan etiquette, which demands that such celebrations are reserved only for monumental upsets.
There is a reason basketball fans never have and never will storm the Allen Fieldhouse floor. Spectators expect for Kansas to win every home game. To celebrate as if the unexpected had just transpired would be to insult the current team and the basketball tradition. The football tradition, though rich in great individual talents such as Gale Sayers, John Riggins, John Hadl, Nolan Cromwell and Jim Fender, obviously can't match the basketball tradition. Yet, for now, the current football team joins the basketball team, making Kansas the only school ranked in the top 10 in the nation in both sports.
The Cornhuskers enter with a 1-4 Big 12 record and a 4-5 overall mark, but it's not as if they are without talent. In Week 2, Nebraska handed Wake Forest its only home loss. Last week, Nebraska led Texas 17-3 well into the third quarter, only to lose, 28-25. Despite what the oddsmakers might project, winning this game isn't a given.
Even so, wear blue, expect a victory, and if it happens, expect the students in the stands to do what their peers on the field will do. They'll act as if they've been there before, and the truth is the Jayhawks have been there before. Kansas has won 11 of its last 12 football games.