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Missouri -25 over Kansas:
Is this 120th staging of the Border War rivalry really going to be the final regular-season meeting of Missouri and Kansas on the football field? Can the second most-played rivalry in the nation actually be derailed by Missouri’s move to the Southeastern Conference and KU’s resulting threat to not play MU? For Kansas, 2-9 overall and 0-8 in the Big 12, the only real question is whether Turner Gill will survive to coach the Jayhawks for a third season. Barring an upset this afternoon, Gill’s second season in Lawrence will place his two-year KU record at 5-19 overall, 1-16 in the Big 12.
Missouri, 6-5 overall and 4-4 in the conference, is bowl eligible for a school-record seventh straight season. But a victory today likely will not alter Mizzou’s level of bowl placement. Missouri has long felt slighted by bowl slotting in the Big 12 and with their announced move to the SEC, the Tigers can expect the Big 12 to treat them as unwanted house guests this time. If the Big 12 runs out of bowl tie-ins, you can bet MU will be looking elsewhere (possibly to the SEC tie-ins) for its postseason destination. he crowd is likely to be the smallest since Missouri and Kansas moved the Border War to Arrowhead Stadium. MU had sold close to 30,000 tickets by Wednesday, while KU had distributed only 10,000-11,000 through its office. Those numbers do not include tickets sold by the Chiefs or through Ticketmaster.
Missouri even with Big 12 rushing leader Henry Josey lost for the season remains the league’s most productive running team, averaging 236.5 yards a game. With Kendial Lawrence (above) and De’Vion Moore and quarterback James Franklin taking up the reigns of the running game, the Tigers rushed for 318 yards in 49 attempts last Saturday against Texas Tech. That’s an average of 6.5 yards a rush. James Franklin, a dual-threat quarterback in his first season as Missouri’s starter, has completed 210 of 332 pass attempts for 2,553 yards and 18 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. Last season, in Blaine Gabbert’s final year at Mizzou, the first-round NFL draft choice had at this point completed 244 of 392 passes for 2,573 yards and 15 touchdowns compared with seven interceptions. Gabbert completed 182 passes to two receivers: T.J. Moe (below) and Michael Egnew. While Moe has 51 catches and Egnew 46 this year, Franklin has completed at least 10 passes to seven different receivers.
Kansas piled up some nice statistics in three of its first four games: 301 yards against McNeese State, 253 against North Illinois and 239 against Texas Tech. And the Jayhawks’ running game perked up for 296 yards against Baylor. But in eight Big 12 games, KU ranks ninth in a 10-team league at only 142.9 yards a game. Missouri has allowed 168.9 yards rushing in Big 12 play, fifth in the league. But the Tigers limited Texas — then the Big 12’s rushing leader — to just 76 yards in 29 carries. Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb (above) has a better completion percentage (.651) than Missouri’s Franklin (.633), but Webb has thrown 10 interceptions compared with 13 touchdowns, and KU quarterbacks have been sacked 28 times in 11 games. Missouri has been vulnerable too often to opponent connections on third down and ranks 99th nationally in pass defense. Still, Missouri has 23 sacks in 11 games and six in its last three games against Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech.
Two years ago, Grant Ressel was an All-American place kicker. This season, early misses, including what could have been a game-winning field goal at Arizona State in what instead turned into an overtime loss, led to a crisis of confidence. And Ressel has not played at all in MU’s last four games because of a hip flexor injury. Punter Trey Barrow has stepped in and hit four of five field goals, the longest from 39 yards. Barrow is averaging 45.4 yards a punt and has booted 18 for 50 yards or more. The return games and covering them have been nothing special. Two Kansas kickers have hit only five of 11 field goals, the longest 37 yards. Ron Doherty has a solid 43.1-yard punting average. D.J. Beshears (above) is averaging just 7.3 yards per punt return and 21.4 yards per kickoff return.
Missouri's numerous threats in the running and passing game gives them the clear cut edge in this one, and with the fan support in the stands anticipated to be even worse than KU’s performance on the field this season, things could get ugly and early given the recent history that makes this matchup anything but a war. We'll gladly lay the lumber and project the ball going the Tigers' way all afternoon. Best of luck however you play!
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