Swimming to the top was tough enough. Now, Kansas University's football team has to tread the dangerous currents to reach the ultimate prize.
That's setting up to be even tougher.
Kansas has ascended to the No. 2 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series standings, as well as all three major polls - the Associated Press, the USA Today coaches and the Harris Interactive - after beating Iowa State, 45-7, on Saturday.
Losses by Oregon and Oklahoma allowed the rise, and the Jayhawks are now behind only LSU in all the rankings. A date with Missouri - No. 4 in the BCS standings and No. 3 in the AP poll - looms as KU's first test in the driver's seat.
The top two teams in the final BCS standings on Dec. 2 will play in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.
KU's ascension was expected after how last week's games played out. Still, like always, don't expect anybody within KU's football program to have a celebratory pizza party.
"We still have another week to go," quarterback Todd Reesing said. "Those rankings don't mean anything until the season's said and done."
True, but the Jayhawks' 11-0 record has put them in great position to have a very meaningful ranking once it's said and once it's done. The No. 2 BCS ranking is in part because of that, but it also has been fueled by losses across college football, be it Oregon, Oklahoma or Ohio State recently.
As for the AP poll, the Jayhawks are ranked higher than they've ever been before. The 1968 team peaked at No. 3 en route to its Orange Bowl berth.
So far, everything has worked out for the Jayhawks from a national perspective, though coach Mark Mangino has kept a one-track mind on what he can control.
"We're not sitting in front of the TV praying people out," Mangino said. "We believe your ship doesn't come in. You have to swim out to your ship."
Kansas has been paddling like crazy this season, and now it appears it's in control of any aspiration it may have. A victory over Missouri on Saturday, followed by a victory in the Big 12 championship game, should be enough for Kansas to play for the national title.
But true to the creed of the team, KU's players are thinking nothing of the possibilities.
"Not yet," linebacker Joe Mortensen said.
¢ Injury update: Mangino said Sunday that the status of KU's three injured starters - left tackle Anthony Collins, cornerback Kendrick Harper and strong safety Patrick Resby - remains uncertain heading into the Missouri game.
"We just don't know," Mangino said. "We've got to progress through the week, and we'll see. At this point in time, medically, nobody has been ruled out."
Kansas obviously is a banged-up team right now, 11 games into the season. But practices have stayed intense in terms of contact and will continue to.
"We pretty much keep a normal routine," Mangino said. "We keep an eye on guys that aren't as healthy as they should be. : But we've got to keep the team moving and keep practicing at the same tempo we normally do."
¢ Work to do: Reesing hasn't thrown an interception in his last 205 pass attempts, a remarkable feat dating back to the Oct. 6 game at Kansas State.
Reesing, in fact, now is starting to catch a whiff of the NCAA Division-I record. That was compiled by Fresno State's Trent Dilfer, who had 271 consecutive pass attempts without an interception in 1993.
¢ Circus coming: ESPN's Web site confirmed Saturday night that its weekly College Gameday show will be aired live from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday.
The show airs from 9 to 11 a.m. before the day's college football games begin. In addition, the crew will make an appearance on SportsCenter between 8 and 9 a.m.
The Kansas-Missouri game is slated for a 7 p.m. start and will be televised by ABC.
¢ Vegas opening line: Kansas opened as a 2 1/2-point favorite over the Tigers for Saturday's game.
The Jayhawks could make a little history Saturday if they win by three or more points. At this stage, Kansas is 10-0 against the Vegas spread, and no college football team has gone through the regular season undefeated against the spread this decade.
¢ New commitments: Kansas received an oral commitment Sunday from an in-state target it has been pursuing for a while: defensive end Duane Zlatnik.
Zlatnik, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder out of Rossville, committed to Kansas over Kansas State and Wisconsin, according to Rivals.com.
"The coaches (at KU) have always said I'll play defensive end," Zlatnik told Rivals. "Hopefully that is where I will stay."
Kansas also received a commitment Sunday from Nicholas Plato, a 6-6, 230-pound tight end/defensive end out of Edwardsville, Ill. Plato originally had committed to Boston College, but changed his mind and chose Kansas over Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Colorado.