It's the Border War. Perhaps the final Border War at least for the forseeable future. The constant money grab that is college sports has finally reached a point where it has successfully pulled apart one of the longest, most hated rivalries in all of sports. It's a shame, but it's reality.
I think the biggest regret here has to be the fact that this finale is going to take place at a time where it looks like the Jayhawks stand very little chance of being competitive. After appearing to possibly begin to turn a corner against Iowa State and Baylor, the Jayhawks fell hard back to earth getting physically destroyed by Texas A&M.
Oddly enough in that same time frame Iowa State knocked off #2 Oklahoma State and Baylor knocked off #5 Oklahoma. Missouri on the other hand is coming off of a win over Texas Tech. It was a narrow win, but a win nonetheless and the Tigers along with eight of ten other Big 12 teams, are going bowling.
Kansas Offense vs. Missouri Defense
The biggest concern here from a Kansas perspective is the health of the team. Jeremiah Hatch left the A&M game early and the offensive line was a shell of it's former self. If that happens, Kansas is pretty much near the bottom of division one football in terms of offense.
Kansas is also dealing with injuries to Tim Biere and one would have to assume starting quarterback Jordan Webb is battered and bruised after taking one of the more physical beatings I've seen in awhile by a quarterback. It almost makes you want to see Matthews back their full time or even let Blake Jablonski the Wichita native have a go at the Tigers. He's a Kansas kid and his family has Nebraska roots so he'll hate the Tigers as much as anyone.
Getting back to the matchup, it just doesn't look good for Kansas in this one. At full strength the Jayhawks might have a chance but even then it would be more wishful thinking based on whatever extra motivation this rivalry musters up inside the Jayhawks.
Missouri isn't a great defense, but they are on par with quite a few teams that have handled the Jayhawks this year and they rank 5th overall in the conference. And while Kansas looked to have an improved offense early in the season, most of that argument has faded during conference play and it would be interesting to compare "improvement" if you take out the two early season nonconference games where the Jayhawks loaded up that bandwagon to begin with.
Edge to Missouri in this one.
Kansas Defense vs Missouri Offense
No this isn't Chase Daniel's Missouri, and it isn't even Blaine Gabbert's Missouri AND the Tigers are absolutely decimated by injury...BUT they still rank 11th in total offense and they do have the type of quarterback that has been a problem for the Jayhawks.
James Franklin is second on the team in terms of rushing yardage and with Henry Josey out, he is the leading active rusher with over 700 yards from scrimmage. On top of that he's a fairly efficient passer. Again, he's not off the charts with his passing as some Tigers have been, but he's a more balanced quarterback that has made major strides in his development this season.
One bright spot if you're looking for bright spots is the fact that the Tigers did fall about 120 yards short of their average last week in their first game without Josey. On the other hand Kendial Lawrence ran for over 100 yards and in my opinion the Tiger running game is more about the offensive line than the guy running the football.
The best defense for Kansas is a good offense. If they can keep Missouri's touches to a minimum, you might see this swing more in the Jayhawks favor. But for now, edge to the Tigers all day long.
Well the good news here is that Gary Pinkel is back to ice his own kicker after serving a one game suspension for his DWI.
The bad news is that ALL that positive talk about special teams was a bit of a paper tiger and Kansas looked awful last week in almost every single area. The one spot where Kansas still has some hope is the kick return game when DJ Beshears in the game.
But as far as that precious net punting game and our #2 in the conference ranking, GONZO. The difference between 1 and 10 in that category is so slim that Kansas now sits near the bottom of the conference after one bad performance.
Numbers aside, Kansas has been fairly respectable in this area. But last weeks lack of focus was a bit troubling and Missouri is one of the better special teams units in the conference. Edge to the Tigers.
For all the grief that we like to give Gary Pinkel, and for all the grief he sometimes takes from his own fanbase, he's done it consistently in Columbia. Yes he's had some very good fortune at the quarterback position with Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and now James Franklin, but he's capitalized on those opportunities and built a program that garners a fair amount of respect around the country.
I can remember in the late 90's when these two programs were both viewed as pretty sub par programs in the grand scheme of things. Yes Missouri fans will point to more history and they do have it, but if we're being honest nobody really thought all that much of the Tigers back then.
Today that isn't the case. Consistency and continuity has led the Tiger program to a place that has produced results, put players in the NFL, developed recruiting pipelines and earned respect across the country. Like it or not it's a prime example of what we need to find in a coach and a coaching staff to some degree and hopefully someone even better.
Easy call here, edge Missouri.