Rivalry, not hype, matters to Missouri against KU

Monday, November 24, 2008 | 9:39 p.m. CST; updated 8:24 p.m. CST, Friday, November 28, 2008

It’s a common saying that the sequel is rarely as good as the original.

The second edition of Missouri against Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City won’t be among the exceptions. Gone is the drama of a possible national football championship. A year ago, both teams entered with Top 5 rankings and the division title undecided. This year, Missouri has already won the Big 12 North, but has no shot at playing for the national title. Gone is the possibility of both teams playing in prestigious bowl games. Missouri could still make it to the Fiesta Bowl by winning the Big 12 title game, but Kansas enters at 6-5 and is likely headed for the Insight Bowl.

Even if the Jayhawks win on Saturday, they would probably be no better than seventh in the selection order. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel recognizes it’s different from last year, but he says he knew that given everything that went into last year’s game, that would probably be the case.

“You look at the rankings up in limbo, a Big 12 championship game appearance, a national championship shot and Heisman Trophy stuff,” Daniel said. “I don’t think there’s ever going to be a game like that ever again with the implications it had on the line. But we’re up for this year’s game. It’s against a rival, so that trumps everything.”

As Daniel says, the only things that remain the same are the setting and the rivalry. As far as the Tigers are concerned, the rivalry is all they need.

“This game is huge for many reasons, most of all because it’s Kansas,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “This is one you don’t really worry about getting your football team ready to play. It’s just a great rivalry that we’re part of. Regardless of the records when you play, it’s always a tough football game.”

In Kansas’ case, Pinkel is accurate to ignore the records. Although the Jayhawks’ 6-5 record pales in comparison to last year, when they were 11-0, that record is a product of Kansas’ schedule. The Jayhawks have played—and lost to—all three contenders for the Big 12 South title, as well as losing road contests at South Florida and Nebraska.

“I think they’re a real good football team,” Pinkel said. “Their schedule has included three of the top five (actually seven) teams in the nation. That’s a tough schedule. We’re going to play hard and try to prepare our best. We’ll certainly get their best shot, and hopefully they’ll get our best shot too.”

If the Tigers do give Kansas their best shot, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel will have a good chance to leave Missouri with a perfect 3-0 record as a starter against the Jayhawks. Daniel was the backup in his freshman year, when the Jayhawks scored a 13-3 win over the Tigers in Lawrence, Kan., Kansas’ last win in the series.

“It’s got to (rank) up there,” Daniel said about where being 3-0 against the Jayhawks would rank on his list of accomplishments. “We still have this game to play, so we’re excited. But it’s definitely one of the things you want to have on your resume, 3-0 against your rival.”

FAMILIARITY BREEDS SUCCESS?: This Saturday’s game will be the first of two straight the Tigers will play in Kansas City, with the Big 12 Championship taking place there on Dec. 6.

Daniel has a 2-0 record at Arrowhead Stadium, and is convinced that playing in Kansas City will be an advantage for at least the Kansas game.

“How can it not be?” Daniel said. “We’re playing somewhere we’re familiar at, we’ve played there before. It’s definitely advantage, but we’re looking at it (that) we get to play in our state against our rival.”

One would guess the same thing applies for the Big 12 title game, but Daniel refused to discuss the game.

“It’s not even about who we play next week,” Daniel said. “If we get caught up in that, then our whole season will just be a failure. We’ve got to focus on KU and nothing else.”

SNYDER RETURNS: Bill Snyder, who was brought back as football coach Monday by Kansas State is one of Pinkel’s greatest tormentors in his time at Missouri.

In five tries, Pinkel never beat Snyder’s Wildcats. But since Snyder retired in 2005, Pinkel has not lost to Kansas State, compiling a 3-0 record against former Wildcat coach Ron Prince, who resigned earlier this year. With his return to the Kansas State sidelines official, Snyder is now the only coach in the Big 12 North that Pinkel has never defeated.

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