The #2 Kansas Jayhawks versus the #4 Missouri Tigers! It was arguably the state of Missouri’s biggest football Saturday in recent memory.
Sure, there had been some huge games involving the Kansas City Chiefs and the old St. Louis Cardinals … and later the St. Louis Rams. But most of those big games were on Sunday. Besides, this wasn’t a National Football League game with Chief fans in some parts of the state and Cardinal or Ram fans in others. This was Missouri’s only Division 1-A team … er, excuse me … Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision team, taking the field to fight for the honor of all Show-Me Staters. Not just mid-Missourians living in and around Columbia, but fans from St. Joseph to St. Louis, Kirksville to Kennett, Maryville to Mountain Grove, Hannibal to Harrisonville, Joplin to Jackson, and all places in between.
Yes, there had been some Big 12 Championships played in St. Louis and Kansas City. But this was a different situation. Those were college football teams supported by people in OTHER states. This was OUR team playing for the Big 12 North title, a trek to San Antonio for the Big 12 Championship Game, and – dare anyone suggest it – a shot at a trip to New Orleans and the BCS National Championship.
The day began with ESPN College Gameday originating from the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium ten hours before kickoff. ESPN College Gameday … in OUR state … WOW! Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreet, and Desmond Howard were joined by thousands of Mizzou and Kansas fans who cheered or booed each partisan comment made by members of the ESPN panel.
As if this event weren’t huge enough, the top-ranked Louisiana State University Tigers had lost a triple overtime heartbreaker to the Arkansas Razorbacks the day before. And the powers that be had let it be known that the winner of this game would be the new number 1 team in the country. Could it get any better?
As game time approached, political leaders from both states filed into Arrowhead Stadium. Missouri’s high profilers included Governor Matt Blunt (R-MO) and U.S. Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Governor Blunt had even placed a friendly wager on the game with Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS). The Governor of the losing school would bear the winning school’s team colors to the 2008 Governors’ Summit on Regional Economic Development which is scheduled for Kansas City. Nothing like a big time sporting event to bring Republicans and Democrats together in friendship.
And, it was a happy night for Missourians of all political persuasions as the Tigers outlasted the Kansas Jayhawks 36-28 to win the Big 12 North and earn a spot in the Big 12 Championship next Saturday. Oh, one other thing … the Missouri Tigers are the Number One team in the country. Whoda thunk it?
It all became official on Sunday when the Associated Press poll ranked Mizzou #1, even though the USAToday Poll had the Tigers checking in at #2. Then the ranking that matters most – the BCS – came out, showing the Missouri Tigers at the top of the college football world. Wow, what a ride so far!