College Football Its Own Self

All right, I have to admit it. The Kansas Jayhawk football team is for real. They are not 10-0 because of good breaks or bad opponents. They are 10-0 because they are a very hardnosed group of football players. It would have been pretty easy to lay down under the pressure that Oklahoma State put on them yesterday. Instead, the Jayhawks toughened up, rode out the worst that O. St. could give them, and handily won the football game.

It is getting easier, from a perspective in Lawrence, to see the Kansas football team as contenders for a national title. The consensus would be that we can beat Iowa State next week in Lawrence. After that, consensus is difficult to find. Missouri has been just a rung or two below Kansas for several weeks now, and that game is going to be very difficult to win, regardless of which team you are rooting for. I hope that it is as good a game as it is shaping up to be.

If nothing else, it is truly amazing to see three Big 12 teams lined picked so close together in the top ten this late in the season. Logic would tell you that the rankings have it right: Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri. But those three teams are so close together, and emotions are running so high, that any football game involving two of them is likely to be a crap-shoot.

By the time Kansas and Missouri line up against each other at Arrowhead Stadium Thanksgiving weekend, it should be a very tough 11-0 team playing a very tenacious 10-1 team for the championship of the Big 12 North. Both teams have a lot of talent. Both teams have a lot of grit. It should truly be a shoot-out worthy of the recently abandoned title Border War.

Whoever wins that game will be an underdog to Oklahoma in San Antonio. Neither coaches nor sportswriters are used to seeing either Kansas or Missouri in the rarified air in which they are currently playing. Therefore, the odds will be with the team that has been a perennial winner; Oklahoma by a touchdown or better. Again, I think this game could go either way. There is a lot of talent and fighting spirit in these three teams. I feel privileged to be able to watch the fireworks from the home town of one of the contenders, regardless of how the wins and losses fall.

I am not even actively thinking about the bigger, national picture. Nobody is considering placing either Kansas or Missouri ahead of LSU or Oregon in the polls. In the back of my mind, though, I see a scenario in which it is possible for Kansas to end the season 13-0, the only unbeaten major team in college football. Where would the pollsters and pundits rank Kansas then, who would we play next, and for what glory?

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