You want hostility? The Kansas band usually does not make the trip because it is so dangerous (previous band members were pelted with bottles and batteries). Missouri won two years ago, while Kansas won last year in an upset 35-14 result. The goalposts came down after each win. This year's version is in Columbia, and you can bet Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel will be straining at the bit to avenge last year's loss, one he blamed on his own coaching. This edition of the Border War should be a knockdown, drag out prison fight and to the winner will come the bragging rights.
The following pregame analysis was penned well over a month ago. Since then KU has endured injuries, quarterback upheaval, almost-but-not-quite games, and a $5,000 reprimand. What's more, John Randle is out with injury for the final game as well. Is this the same Kansas team that was written about in early Ocotber?
Missouri has not had a stellar season either, having just lost their fourth straight game. The loss was to Kansas State, a team that Kansas does hold bragging rights over this year. Neither KU or Mizzou has hopes of reaching a bowl game this year, but that shouldn't matter come Saturday.
OFFENSIVE ADVATANGE: PUSH
Both teams have weapons. But both teams are inconsistent, one for a coaching style and the other for a youthful offense still learning its way. Missouri has dynamic playmaker Brad Smith at quarterback. Smith is at his best when he escapes the pocket — this year's early efforts to turn him into a pocket passer haven't exactly been successful. If he can roll out and have a couple of short passes as options, he can succeed. However, at this point he lacks the accuracy and timing needed to be a marquee passing quarterback.
Damien Nash looks the part of a star. The junior running back is explosively quick, and hits the hole fast and hard. He lacks the physicality of Zack Abron, but probably has a better total package. Marcus Woods is a slippery second option who can make big plays if given room. The receivers have yet to step up. Thomson Omboga is a decent possession receiver, while Sean Coffey brings size. Greg Bracey has the speed to separate, but Smith doesn't have the ability to throw it. Tight end Victor Sesay is big with good speed and may be the best option in the passing game. The offensive line is typically big, with Tony Palmer being the beast at guard. Still, the line has looked incredible at some points and not so much in others, but they will play physically against KU.
Kansas' offense has been inconsistent due to all of the first-time starters. An injury to Tony Coker forced the offensive line to replace three starters from last year's unit, and so far, they have struggled to create holes. They have not been bad at protecting quarterback Adam Barmann though. Barmann has been the story of the offense so far. There are times when he looks like the heir apparent to Bill Whittemore's throne and other times when he looks like what he is — a first-year starter as "the man." He has all of the tools, but needs to be more consistent.
John Randle is so quick that all he needs is a crease, but he has been more effective catching the ball in space than he has been running the ball. Brandon Rideau, Barmann's favorite target, looks all-conference at times and drops multiple passes at others. Mark Simmons and Gary Heaggans get open, but Barmann is often fixated on one receiver. Sure-handed tight end Lyonel Anderson is a great safety valve to have.
DEFENSIVE ADVANTAGE: PUSH
Troy was able to use the "Kansas formula" to beat Missouri. They only rushed three or four down linemen, kept in their rush lanes, and waited for Brad Smith to fret and take off. With nobody open downfield, Smith would take off, only to be corralled quickly by the linebackers lying in wait. Kansas should do some of the same this year. Kansas has been able to get pressure when it rushes three, most notably in passing situations with Greg Tyree, Jermial Ashley and David McMillan. Charlton Keith could also become a major player by the Missouri game.
The interior, manned by Travis Watkins, Tim Allen, and two true freshman has held up thus far this year. The linebackers are fast and make plays all over the field. Nick Reid is having another banner season, while Gabe Toomey is starting to take off. Banks Floodman and Kevin Kane have both had their moments in the sun as well. Charles Gordon and Theo Baines have been fantastic thus far. The depth behind them gets shaky though. Safeties Tony Stubbs and Rodney Harris clean up a lot of plays. Harris has had a huge influence in helping to turn this secondary around.
Missouri's defense is made up of speed, speed and more speed. But, like everything else in this game, that doesn't mean they are always consistent. C.J. Mosley is one of the Big 12's top defensive tackles. The defensive ends, Attiyah Ellison and Brian Smith, can get to the quarterback. But, the line can be pushed backwards at times. The linebackers are athletic, led by James Kinney. Dedrick Harrington and David Richard are the others, while Jason Simpson and Nino Williams are playmaking safeties. Shirdonya Mitchell, the team's fastest player, is also its best cornerback.
Kansas has to find a kicking game. Scott Webb is the guy for now, and once he gets more practice from deep, he could be a good one. Kyle Tucker and Chris Tyrell could fight it out for the punter job late into the year. Charles Gordon, Greg Heaggans and John Randle are all dangerous return men.
Missouri's special teams are solid, but not spectacular. The kicking game is average. The punter must improve and the return game lacks a true playmaker. That could change if Mitchell gets settled into his job as return man.
Mark Mangino outcoached Gary Pinkel last year when he had the horses to compete. He takes pride in making sure his team is prepared and is excellent at making second half adjustments. His main goal has to be to motivate and focus a young team that is still learning what it takes to win in the Big 12. They've let a few slip by to inexperience thus far.
Pinkel lands big name recruits and is trying to shut off the borders to Missouri from other schools. He gets his team well prepared for games, but his biggest fault this year has been trying to turn Brad Smith, a quarterback known for his running abilities, into a passer. He refuses to make adjustments, believing that his will to stick with a game plan will prevail.
THE X-FACTORS Faurot Field is a tough place to play. Really tough. Coming into this season, Missouri had a six-game winning streak on its home field. They stink on the road, but that won't affect how they play this game. Kansas needs to win on the road before the Missouri game or they might be in trouble. Likewise, if Missouri is in the running for the North title and Kansas stands in its way, this could be nasty. Expect the Tigers to be thirsting for vengeance in this one.