Somebody pinch Mark Allison. He must be dreaming.
The annual Kansas-Kansas State football battle is something Allison, a KU junior offensive tackle, watched with interest while growing up in Minneapolis, Kan., a town high on Purple Pride.
He watched through the Toilet Bowl years, as the Sunflower Showdown was viewed with absolute disdain from outsiders.
But, come Thursday night, a nation will watch the natural rivalry. At least one national ranking -- K-State is ranked No. 19 by the Associated Press, while KU earned enough votes for No. 27 -- is on the line.
And, the winner could trade the Cup -- the Governor's Cup -- for a bowl. The winner the last two years has gone on to play in a postseason contest, while the loser stayed home.
It's almost too much for Allison to comprehend.
"This is what every Kansas kid dreams of," Allison said. "Who would have dreamed about this growing up? And now it's a reality.
"This is the biggest game that a Kansas kid, growing up in the state of Kansas, can play."
That Allison came to play what he plays, where he plays it, adds to the story. A consensus all-stater as a senior, he made the All-America team in both SuperPrep and Parade magazines. USA Today named him one of the top 25 high school players in the country.
Nebraska, among others, came calling, but the Huskers said something Allison didn't want to hear: His future was on the offensive line.
See, Allison saw himself as a defensive lineman. So he turned his back on the Huskers' snub and enrolled at KU.
Allison red-shirted in 1991 and played in six games on defense in 1992. He moved to the offensive line for the 1992 Aloha Bowl and never moved back.
"All my life I've been told I was mild-mannered," Allison said. "When I got here, all the coaches said, to be a defensive lineman, you have to be a terror."
As much as he might hate to admit it, it looks like the coaches were right.
Allison accepts that now, and he likes his role.
He takes pride, for example, in the Jayhawks' ground game, which, after four games, ranks second in the nation with 323.3 yards per game.
"Sooner or later, somebody's going to figure out a way to stop us," Allison said. "Then you have to figure out ways to keep them off-balance. But we do have a lot of confidence in our running ability."
Which brings us to Thursday's game with K-State. The 'Cats are mighty tough against the run. They've allowed just 125.3 yards per game so far.
"They have a great defense," Allison said, "and they got everybody back from last year. They play well together, and they know their defense well. They're real good about stopping the run, and they like to put pressure on the quarterback.
"We have a lot of respect for them. We'll have to play real good. It'll be fun. It'll be real interesting."
Don't all dreams come true?