COLUMBIA — In the past, the Border Showdown has not gone hand-in-hand with Big 12 Conference and national championship implications. But the parity that has been featured in college football throughout 2007 will produce a game that has precisely that on the line when the two rivals meet on Saturday in Kansas City.
The No. 3 Tigers will take on the second-ranked Jayhawks in a game that will decide the winner of the Big 12 North division and which team will be making a trip to San Antonio the following Saturday to play for the conference championship. The reward is normally bragging rights and means a lot to the teams no matter the records. But the high rankings of the Tigers and Jayhawks will give this year’s game an extra oomph.
“It’s all or nothing now,” wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said.
At 11-0, Kansas has its highest ranking in school history. The team’s season has been remarkable when considering they were picked to finish as low as last place in the North division in preseason polls.
On the other hand, the Tigers were picked to win the North and will enter the contest ranked No. 3 in the country, its highest since Nov. 14, 1960 when they were ranked No.1. Coincidentally, it was the Jayhawks that upset the Tigers that season and ended their national title hopes.
“That’s the great thing about this rivalry,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “It doesn’t matter about records, because you go to one of those schools to play in this kind of a game.”
Right now, the Tigers still have national championship hopes and they must win their remaining games to remain in the mix. With top-five teams such as Oregon and Oklahoma losing last week, Missouri is being mentioned on the short list of national championship contenders.
With the Tigers jumping to No. 4 in the BCS rankings and Kansas at No. 2, the winner of next week’s Big 12 title game will get an automatic invitation to a BCS game. A loss this week for either team most likely lands them in a second-tier bowl or a high profile New Years’ Day bowl.
In other words, Kansas City will almost certainly be the center of the college football universe on Saturday evening.
“I can’t wait because it’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere,” quarterback Chase Daniel said excitedly. “K.U., K.U., K.U.!”
GAMEDAY TO KANSAS CITY: The popular ESPN pregame show “ESPN College Gameday” will broadcast from Kansas City’s Truman Sports Complex near Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday. The show will be on the air from 9 to 11 a.m. to hype up the 7 p.m. game.
MACLIN WINS AWARD: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s National Offensive Player of the Week on Sunday. The Kirkwood native set a school single game record of 360 all-purpose yards and set an NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yards with 2,309 yards.