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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Commentary: Kansas-Missouri more than a game

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The Border War 2007

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¢ 6Sports video: Beaten but still in top 5<br /> ¢ 6News video: Fans cheer on Hawks from Lawrence<br /> ¢ 6News video: Crowds brave cold for ESPN's Gameday<br /> ¢ 6News video: Broken dreams<br />

There's a lot at stake tonight at Arrowhead Stadium when Missouri and Kansas reenact their uncivil war. This will be a memorable football game and a massive party. From inside the stadium walls to the far reaches of the parking lots, the action will be fast and furious.

This scrum of feuding neighbors will impact the polls, sway voters and influence computer projections. From the Tigers' perspective, and in the national context, the outcome could result in the biggest swing of votes for a Missouri campaigner since 1948, when underdog Harry Truman defeated challenger Thomas E. Dewey for the presidency.

This revival of Mizzou-KU surely is the most captivating statewide sporting event since the Royals and Cardinals threw down in the 1985 World Series of baseball.

Some say that MU vs. KU is just a football game. And if you believe that, then you'll also believe that Norm Stewart soon will become the Mayor of Lawrence, Kan., or that William Quantrill and John Brown dabbled in harmless chicanery some 150 years ago.

True, in many prior engagements this one-time drudge match pitted two programs that frequently were so down and far off the map that Lewis and Clark couldn't have found them.

Now the rivalry has taken a delirious turn that few could have envisioned. The only thing on the line for No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Missouri at Arrowhead is ... well, everything.

The Big 12 North championship. A spot in the Big 12 title game. A chance to stay alive in the quest for a national championship. The victor also claims sniping rights. The Kansas-Missouri history is one of hatred, violence and bloodshed - and that's just the tailgate parties.

"This will be a shootout," said ABC's Brent Musburger, who will be calling tonight's game.

And the winner is ... Missouri.

Why? Well, as Truman once said of his Republican rivals: "They are wrong and we are right and I'm going to prove it to you!"

Three reasons why the Tigers will win:

The horse race analogy - The Tigers have been running against faster, tougher horses. Mizzou's schedule is ranked No. 53 in the nation for difficulty; KU's schedule is 99th. KU did not play Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech, the three best teams in the Big 12 South. Kansas supporters brag about a KU defense that's ranked No. 1 in the conference. But that defense has faced only two of the top seven Big 12 offenses. The Jayhawks have been romping against Fairmount Park horses. Now they'll face a higher-caliber thoroughbred from Churchill Downs.

Missouri's maturity - The Tigers led Texas Tech 17-10 at the half and scored the final 24 points. The Tigers trailed at Colorado, 10-7, and scored the final 48 points. The Tigers were down 23-10 at Oklahoma, then took a 24-23 lead into the fourth quarter. The Tigers responded with big plays, and momentum-changing scores, when mildly threatened by Iowa State, Texas A&M and Kansas State.

Weapons of mass confusion - OK, the Jayhawks have a fine cornerback in Aqib Talib. Maybe he'll do a nifty job in covering Mizzou's game breaker, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Now please tell us what Kansas plans to do about shutting down the other wide receivers, William Franklin, Danario Alexander, Tommy Saunders and Jared Perry?

Kansas has an outstanding offense. But it's a more conventional offense. And it isn't as abundantly deep, diverse and dizzying as the Mizzou attack. The Tigers will reach that standard, and more, by winning, 41-31, at Arrowhead.

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