LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Missouri and Kansas began their football rivalry in the 19th century. They spent the 20th century building it up.
Now in the 21st century they’re about to play the biggest, grandest game ever staged in a series so fierce and so bitter the two sides can’t even agree on the overall record.
With No. 4 Kansas beating Iowa State 45-7 and No. 6 Missouri dispatching Kansas State 49-32 on Saturday, the stage is set for a showdown between the archrivals next week that will decide the Big 12 North title—and possibly much more.
The survivor between the Tigers (10-1, 6-1 Big 12) and Jayhawks (11-0, 7-0) will advance to the Big 12 title tilt. That game could launch the winner into the national championship game.
“The time has arrived,” Kansas running back Brandon McAnderson said.
Kansas linebacker Joe Mortensen said, “It’s going to be a great week.”
Robert Hemenway, the chancellor of this longtime basketball power which hasn’t had even a share of a football championship in 39 years, said, “I hardly know how to act.”
Todd Reesing, the remarkable sophomore quarterback who’s never lost as a college starter, threw for 253 yards and four touchdowns as the Jayhawks went to 11-0 for the first time in school history.
With Oregon losing on Thursday to Arizona, Kansas figures to move from third to second in the BCS standings behind LSU. Missouri will also move up from No. 5 and Oklahoma, the likely Big 12 South Division winner, could move up from No. 4.
“It’s for keeps in the Big 12 North,” defensive tackle James McClinton said. “Sold-out crowd, two good teams, there’s a lot on this game. We just have to stay focused and work hard.”
The Jayhawks, who were picked fourth in the Big 12 North and did not become ranked until after their fifth game, scored on four straight possessions to take a 28-7 halftime lead. The Cyclones finished 3-9, 2-6 in Gene Chizik’s first year as head coach.
Reesing did not play in the fourth quarter and finished 21-for-26. His 33 touchdown passes in only 11 games leave him just two short of the school’s career record set by David Jaynes from 1971-73. It was the sixth time this season he’s had at least three touchdown passes in a game and he extended his school record of consecutive passes without an interception to 205.
“You never really know how you’re doing or what your numbers are, but I felt pretty in sync,” he said. “The offensive line was giving me time. I had a chance to throw the ball and the receivers were getting open. When all that is going well, it makes my job real easy.”
He hit Dexton Fields with touchdown passes of 17 and 16 yards for a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Then on third-and-5, Marcus Henry made a shoestring catch over the middle and sped 51 yards for a 21-0 lead over the Cyclones, who had won two in a row and shown improvement in the final month.
“They are a very good team” said Chizik. “They are deservedly No. 2 in the country. They’ve got a very good football team.”
Kerry Meier, the incumbent quarterback Reesing beat out in August, turned in a juggling 18-yard touchdown catch with 1:56 left in the half and then made it 38-7 with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Derek Fine after Reesing had retired in the fourth quarter.
Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer, making his 48th consecutive start, was 16-for-28 for 103 yards. Alex Robinson capped a 13-play, 79-yard drive for the Cyclones with a 6-yard touchdown run after Kansas had gone up 21-0 in the third.
In that drive, the Jayhawks drew an uncharacteristic three penalties.
They came into the game as the country’s least-penalized team, averaging fewer than four penalties a game, but drew a season-most nine flags for 98 yards.
Fields had 11 catches for 109 yards and Henry had four for 92. Angus Quigley scored on a 13-yard run for the final TD.
Reesing is maintaining a one-game-at-a-time focus and refusing to even acknowledge that a national championship could be within his grasp if only the Jayhawks keep winning.
“Those rankings really don’t mean anything until the season is said and done. We’re going to come in tomorrow and get ready for next week.”