Okay, I don't usually write about sports here. A Shroud of Thoughts is devoted to pop culture and I simply do not think of sports as pop culture. That having been said, last night was the occasion of what may be the most significant football game in the history of either the University of Missouri or the University of Kansas. In the end the Missouri Tigers would beat the Kansas Jayhawks 36-28.
The significance of the game rested on several factors. First, this game was the Big 12 North championship. Whoever won this game would move onto the Big 12 championship to face the Big 12 South champions Oklahoma. Second, for the first time in years both teams were ranked in the top ten in the AP poll--Missouri at number 3 and Kansas at number 2. Third, Friday night number one LSU lost their game against Arkansas. This puts the number one spot up for grabs. Whoever won the so called "Border Showdown" could find themselves ranked number one in the AP poll. Fourth, not only would the winner of this game move onto the Big 12 championship, but they could find themselves in the national championship. This would be quite an accomplishment for either team. The last time Mizzou was ever this close to a national championship title was in 1960. As to Kansas, they have never been this close.
Of course, the game is made all the more important by the rivalry between the University of Missouri and University of Kansas that has existed ever since they first played each other in 1891. It is the oldest football rivalry west of the Mississippi. What is more the rivalry's roots do not rest on the gridiron, but in the history of the two states. Prior to the War Between the States, there were outright skirmishes between the two states. During the War, Jayhawkers from Kansas would raid Missouri and bushwhackers from Missouri would raid Kansas. The rivalry then actually came about because of some very deep seated feelings the states hold for each other. Since 1891, the two teams have played each other 116 times. Until last night the record was tied at 53 wins apiece, 53 losses apiece, and 9 ties. Last night that changed, as Mizzou now has 54 wins over Kansas. Of course, Jayhawkers will insist that the record should be tied at 54 wins apiece, counting the 1960 game in which the Jayhawks played an ineligible player as a win (Bert Coan, ineligible because of recruiting violations on the part of Kansas). It must be pointed out, however, that the NCAA does not count the game as a win, which is ultimately what matters, regardless what Jayhawks fans might think.
Given what either team could gain from the game and the long history between the two teams, I think those of you who do not live in either Missouri or Kansas can understand why the game was so important. That having been said, I am still a little puzzled as to why some venues favoured Kansas to win the game, even if many thought it would be close. The simple fact is that Missouri played a much tougher schedule than Kansas did. In fact, I will go so far as to say that given the teams that the Jayhawks played, I don't think they really deserved their AP ranking of number two. Let's face it, while Mizzou faced off against the juggernaut known as Oklahoma, Kansas was facing off the rather less threatening team known as Baylor. At best, Kansas faced teams who might hope to get into the fringe bowls, while Missouri was facing teams with fairly good records. I might also mention that Kansas did not even rank in the top 100 with regards to punt returns and net punting, and until last night they had only sacked a passer a total of 19 times. I can also point out that the last time the Tigers played the Jayhawks, we beat them 42 to 17.
In fact, while I am happy that Missouri won last night's game, I must say that I am somewhat disappointed at the score. We only won 36 to 28. In my humble opinion, the score should have been more like last year's Mizzou/KU game; the Tigers should have given the Jayhawks a sound thrashing. While the Tigers were playing well last night, it seems to me that they could have played better. While I have to admit that this KU team is a good one, I don't think they are so good that they could rack up 28 points against the Tigers without some mistakes on Mizzou's part.
Regardless, for the first time in 47 years it seems that the national championship could be within Mizzou's grasp. As a fan of Mizzou football since childhood, I have to say that this makes me very happy. Of course, even if the Missouri Tigers do not become the 2007 football champions, I will still be happy. After all, we ended KU's winning streak, won the Big 12 North title, prevented them from going onto the Big 12 championship, and dashed any hopes, however meagre, they had of being national champions. For a Mizzou Tiger fan, that is more than enough.