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War of words

Border War veterans exchange blows and much more

Posted: Wednesday November 21, 2007 12:33PM; Updated: Wednesday November 21, 2007 1:31PM
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Todd Reesing
A model of efficiency, Kansas QB Todd Reesing has gone interception-free in nine of 11 games this season.
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Theoretically, you come to the Mailbag each week seeking my "expertise" on college football matters. This week, however, the biggest story in the country involves a subject I feel somewhat unqualified to speak about.

The rise to prominence of Kansas and Missouri snuck up on me just as much as it snuck up on most of you. I must confess: I have never seen a Tigers-Jayhawks football game. My knowledge of Border War lore is significantly lacking. And sadly, I've seen far less of the nation's current No. 2 and 3 teams in action this season than any number of now unranked (Michigan), irrelevant (Alabama) or inconsequential (South Florida) squads.

Fortunately, two of my bosses happen to be noted authorities on the rivalry. I asked Adam Levine, SI.com's executive editor and a proud Missouri alum, and supervising producer/resident Kansas nut Dan George to share some of their wisdom with the rest of us.

Mostly I just wanted to watch them smack-talk each other.

Q: In your expert opinion, tell us why the other school "sucks?"

Adam (Mizzou guy): It's not really a question of why Kansas sucks so much as how badly Kansas sucks. Sure they're undefeated, but the same could be said of 30 other Division I-A teams if they played the weak-sauce schedule the Jayhawks have thus far faced. Mock Crock Cakewalk ends Saturday.

Dan (KU guy): It is in Missouri, which is reason enough for any self-respecting Kansan to loathe it. It's more than the schools -- it's a state thing going back to the Civil War, when William Quantrill's Confederate guerillas burned Lawrence and murdered nearly 200 people. Neither Missouri nor Kansas folks have forgotten it. As the saying goes, the only good thing to come out of Missouri is I-70.

Q: Prior to this season, what would you say was your fondest football memory involving your school?

Adam: When I was in grad school, we tried to sneak then-starting QB Corby Jones onto our J-School intramural team. (He had turned out to support his brother, who was on the team.) Sadly one of the refs recognized him before he could take a snap. Pretty sure that ref was from Kansas.

Dan: KU, with future NFL Pro Bowl safety Nolan Cromwell running the wishbone, stunning No. 1 Oklahoma 23-3 in Norman in 1975, the only loss in the Sooners' 11-1 national championship season. I worked with an OU guy then -- should have seen the look on his face. It's the same one Adam will have late Saturday night.

Q: Who will win Saturday and why?

Adam: KU's defense is solid but there's no way it can hold down QB Chase Daniel, tight ends Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman and redshirt frosh sensation Jeremy Maclin. Maclin will be the difference potentially on a punt or kick return -- or when he steals Mark Mangino's halftime dinner, Hamburglar-style.

Dan: Daniel will get his passing yards, but he is prone to the pick -- and interceptions, too. The Jayhawks lead the nation in turnover margin, not to mention fewest penalties. This team doesn't make mistakes (witness Todd Reesing's 30 TD passes to four INTs).

Q: Complete the following sentence: "If Kansas wins the national title, I will ..."

Adam: Lead a war party down to Lawrence and burn that mother down.

Dan: I'm not going to do anything wacky like add a wing to my house and turn it into some kind of insane Kansas national championship shrine. On the other hand ... I'm not sure my son really needs his own bedroom any more. He and his sisters can double up. That's fair, right?

Q: Complete the following sentence: "If Missouri wins the national title, I will ..."

Adam: Hope Oklahoma takes care of business this week so the Tigers can get revenge in the Big 12 title game for that garbage loss in Norman earlier this season. And then I'm going to sack Lawrence just for good measure.

Dan: Await the end of the world, I guess. If a Mizzou national title isn't a "Sign of the Apocalypse," what is? But who are we kidding? Even if the Tigers beat the Jayhawks, they'll find some way to screw things up down the road. Colorado's infamous fifth-down TD, Matt Davison's miracle TD for Nebraska, Tyus Edney's game-winning drive for UCLA -- glorious losses are a Missouri tradition. It should continue Saturday.

Wow -- look at what we've been missing out on all these years. The animosity between those two schools was best conveyed by former Kansas coach Don Fambrough, who, in expressing his distaste for the game's more politically correct "Border Showdown" rebranding, told my colleague Austin Murphy last week, "It's a goddamn war. And they started it!"

Hopefully it won't be another 116 years before this rivalry merits our attention again.

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