Keegan: Hard not to look ahead

Saturday, November 17, 2007

KU hosts ISU in 2007 Memorial Stadium finale

The Kansas Jayhawks will look to improve on their 10-0 record against Iowa State in the 2007 home finale.

KU football jerseys outselling basketball

To some, wearing the jersey of your favorite player is the sign of a true fan. And in Lawrence, basketball jerseys have long been the campus staple - at least until this season.

Local couple happy to be 'Hawk fans

Before tailgating and the Jayhawk mascot as we know it today - there was Glee and Jerry Smith - a Lawrence couple who have attended every home football game since 1941.

Both college football teams were unbeaten and headed for a big rivalry showdown with implications that went beyond Big 12 title talk to national title projections.

It happened in Week 5 of this football season. Texas needed only to win a home game against Kansas State. Winning at Colorado was the only hurdle in Oklahoma's way. Texas and Oklahoma both lost, tainting the appeal of the Red River Shootout, won this season by the Sooners, 28-21.

It's not as if the two perennial Big 12 South powers intended to look past their games against lesser North foes that week. Still, it's difficult to believe that it didn't have at least something to do with the double-upset. It could be that, with everyone talking about the following week's game, it became difficult for the players not to think about it.

Seven weeks later, Kansas and Missouri are in similar positions, playing games today against underdogs while most of the rest of the people in their worlds are buzzing about the Border War that would put the winners two more victories away from being crowned national champions, provided of course, they take care of business Saturday.

Strangely, the oddsmakers made Missouri just a seven-point favorite in Manhattan against a reeling Ron Prince team that has lost three of its last four. Those losses, all on the road, came by a combined margin of 55 points.

It almost makes you wonder what the oddsmakers know. Are they counting on a late-season Missouri collapse based on a history of them in recent years? If so, that seems ridiculous since this team clearly is far better than its predecessors.

Or could it be the bookies are expecting Kansas State, its pride damaged, to bounce back the way Nebraska did a week after having 70-plus pinned on it?

Meanwhile, Kansas, the lone remaining team in the country to win every game against the spread, has been made a 27-point favorite against Iowa State, which seems excessive given the Cyclones' recent improvement. In the past four games, Iowa State has lost to Oklahoma by 10 and to Missouri by 14, then defeated Kansas State and Colorado. What about that four-game stretch makes anyone suspect this is a team ready to lose to anybody by nearly four touchdowns?

Oklahoma has the toughest game of the three Big 12 schools in the running for the national title. The Sooners travel to Lubbock to play Mike Leach's pass-crazed Red Raiders.

If KU, MU and OU all win today, and OU wins the following week against Oklahoma State, the team that wins the Big 12 title game in San Antonio on Dec. 1 will play in the BCS title game in New Orleans on Jan. 8.

In other words, whichever of the three highly ranked Big 12 teams wins out - only one can - will be in the BCS title game.

See how easy it is to look ahead, past Saturday?

For KU, health concerns finally have surfaced, the most noteworthy being that of superstar defensive tackle James McClinton. He spent much of the Oklahoma State game on the sideline and limped when he did play. Superstar left tackle Anthony Collins also limped a lot.

A victory over Iowa State is far from a given, though a loud crowd in the last game of the year in Memorial Stadium certainly won't hurt.