KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Any rivalry that traces its beginnings to the 19th century doesn't need the lure of a Big 12 North title to make it special.
Even though Nebraska's victory Friday afternoon over Colorado ruined any chance No. 15 Missouri had of going to the final Big 12 championship game, there's always plenty of incentive when the opponent is Kansas. For one thing, it's the No. 1 game on the calendar for fans on both sides of the border year after year.
For another, today's game in Arrowhead Stadium will offer the Tigers (9-2 5-2 Big 12) a chance for just the fourth 10-win season in school history and a premium bowl assignment.
But most of all, it's a chance to beat Kansas.
"It's a rivalry game," Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "Throw all the records out the door. You could be 0-11 or 11-0, this is going to make a team's season. Talent helps, but of course there's going to be that emotional factor."
The Jayhawks (3-8, 1-6) would love nothing more than to wind up a disappointing first season under Turner Gill with a victory that would warm fans' hearts all winter long.
"We could go into the offseason feeling good about ourselves," Kansas linebacker Steven Johnson said. "We just have to believe in ourselves and work hard, go out there and get the job done. It's a long offseason."
This is a rivalry with roots going all the way back to the middle of the 19th century when violent border clashes between slavery and anti-slavery forces foreshadowed the Civil War. Talk to a Kansan, and he'll tell you the Jayhawks own a 55-54-9 advantage in one of the oldest rivalries in the country. Ask a Missourian, and you'll be told the Tigers hold that 55-54-9 lead.
Yes, it's so heated the two schools can't - or won't - agree on who's ahead. In 1960, unranked Kansas beat No. 1 Missouri, possibly costing the Tigers what would have been their only national championship.
But the Big Eight Conference later voted Kansas should forfeit for using an ineligible player. So, Missouri's records ever since have indicated a Tigers win that year.
But according to Kansas, the whole thing was political. So the Jayhawks have refused to forfeit, and the official records clash.
On one point the two sides are in complete accord. They dislike one another. They do not pretend not to dislike one another.
"I think more what the players feel is competitive hatred," Missouri safety Jarrell Harrison said. "With the fans, I think it's really hate. We don't like Kansas because we want to beat them but I think the rivalry goes deep. It's a big game for a lot of people and all week from my neighbors I've been hearing,"Get KU.'"
It didn't take Gill long to appreciate Missouri-Kansas passions. All he had to do was talk to Jordan Gill, who was already a Kansas student when her daddy became head coach.
So what did Jordan tell him exactly?
"Dad, you better win this one," Gill said.
"She's told me about it since she decided to come to the University of Kansas, so I've had two or three years just from the perspective of a student," Gill said. "And obviously, fans have talked to me periodically about it and just people I've talked to since I've been out in the community."
Missouri will be going for a second straight victory over the Jayhawks and looking to improve their impressive resume. Already, the Tigers have beaten five teams already bowl eligible. But Missouri coach Gary Pinkel understands that to most Tiger fans, beating Kansas ranks higher on their wish list than beating anyone else.
"You inherit this rivalry when you come to Mizzou as a player or coach," said Pinkel. "It's one of the great rivalries in college football. I've said this every year, that you can throw the records out it means so much to each team and certainly means a lot to our fans. We'll get KU's best effort because that's what they do."