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This time, more at stake for Missouri against Kansas

Friday, September 26, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:27 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

The first 50 people Gary Pinkel met at Missouri greeted him the same.

"How ya doin'? Beat Kansas," Pinkel recalls.

That displays the importance of the Missouri-Kansas football game, which sees its 112th installment Saturday in Lawrence, Kan. This year's game means something beyond the Border War rivalry, though.

It's the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams. Missouri is ranked 23rd and, most important, the Tigers and Jayhawks are - dare it be said - good.

All of this gives added importance to a game that needs none.

"In this game, I don't care if you've won all your games, you've lost all your games, who you played the week before, who you played in all your games," Pinkel said. "It's Kansas, and that makes it huge regardless of all other issues."

After allowing 22 points in its first three games, Missouri's defense suffered a setback last week. The Tigers allowed Middle Tennessee State to rack up 483 yards and 40 points.

"I'm certainly very disappointed," he said. "I saw it coming, and I couldn't put it out. There were too many things that were too good, too rosy. Obviously, I didn't get that done, so point the finger at me."

It could get worse before it gets better. Kansas ranks fourth in the nation in total offense with 499.75 yards per game.

Missouri's defense must pressure Kansas quarterback Bill Whittemore. Whittemore is No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency, and Missouri needs to try to shake him early.

Missouri's secondary must do a better job in coverage than it did against Middle Tennessee State. The Tigers allowed too many big pass plays after flushing the Blue Raiders' Andrico Hines out of the pocket.

The Tigers' running game needs to continue the dominance it showed against Middle Tennessee State when Brad Smith and Zack Abron ran for more than 100 yards.

Missouri needs to continue to develop its passing game. The game has all the makings of an offensive shootout, and the Tigers won't be able to stay in it if their offense is one-dimensional.

The Tigers need to get off to a good start, taking the crowd out of the game. The Tigers have yet to face a rowdy opposing crowd, so this will be their biggest challenge thus far.


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