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Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Keegan: North title up for grabs

October 22, 2008

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Audio Clips
2008 Oct. 21 press conference

The rules dictated that somebody had to represent the Kansas City Royals in the 1969 All-Star Game. The American League needed another catcher, so Ellie Rodriguez made the team, despite carrying a .260 batting average, two home runs and 12 RBIs into the break.

You think those numbers made Rodriguez, his family, friends and members of his fan club (both of them), any less proud of him when he was called to the line in pregame introductions? Rodriguez, a .245 career hitter, finished with 16 home runs in nine seasons, but he was a two-time All-Star (1972, representing the Milwaukee Brewers). An All-Star is an All-Star.

Similarly, the rules stipulate that in the Big 12, the football title game must be played between one team from the South and one from the North, not the two best teams. (Such a matchup could take place in the BCS national championship game, pitting Texas against Oklahoma in a rematch).

The school that represents the North in the Big 12 championship game won't care at that point how many teams from the South are ranked ahead of it in the polls, how many games it lost in conference and how badly the South teams might have dominated it and how many points the South would be favored by in the title game. The players, coaches and fans only will care that they have the opportunity to play for the championship of the best conference in college football.

Kansas could be that team without winning a game against a team from the South, which has gone 7-1 against the North.

Think about it. If Kansas (2-1, alone in first in the Big 12) can defeat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Neb., and stave off an upset from Kansas State in Lawrence, for the second year in a row, the Jayhawks would face Missouri in Arrowhead Stadium with a berth in the Big 12 title game on the line.

Missouri, K-State, Nebraska and Colorado are tied for second with 1-2 records and Iowa State is 0-3. Mizzou has the easiest remaining schedule (Colorado, at Baylor, K-State, at Iowa State, Kansas). Nebraska is at Oklahoma, plays host to Kansas, travels to K-State and finishes at home against Colorado. KSU welcomes Oklahoma for homecoming, then is at Kansas and Missouri and finishes at home against Nebraska and Iowa State. Colorado has remaining games against Missouri, Oklahoma State and Nebraska, so forget about the Buffaloes.

Winning out against the North is one way for the Jayhawks to make it to the conference championship game. Kansas isn't thinking about those games now, of course. Next up is Texas Tech on Saturday in Memorial Stadium at 11 a.m.

The natural fear going into the game is that Graham Harrell will have his way with the Kansas defense the same way Sam Bradford did. Maybe, but the eighth-ranked Red Raiders scored just 31 points in regulation before winning in overtime against a suspect Nebraska defense and that game was in Lubbock.

Texas Tech tends to be far more vulnerable on the road than at home. Last season, for example, Tech went 3-1 at home and 1-3 on the road. Still, it won't be easy. Harrell has thrown just five picks and has been sacked once all season. Oh well, it's not as if it's a must-win on the path to a potential spot in the Big 12 title game.

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