Mark Mangino and Gary Pinkel quickly found out after taking their current jobs how important the Kansas-Missouri rivalry really is, and how much fans want to win that game every year.
And that was when both teams were consistently at or near the bottom of the Big 12.
``When I first arrived at Kansas, they were taking me around to meet various people,'' said Mangino, now in his sixth season. ``A lot of fans would say, 'I don't care what you do all year as long as you beat Missouri.'''
Soon after his introduction as Missouri's coach seven years ago, Pinkel was at a reception with some of the school's biggest boosters.
``The first 10 people came up to me right in a row, 'Coach Pinkel, it's great to have you here, but you better beat Kansas,''' he recalled Monday. ``I found out real, real quick.''
But never has so much ridden on the outcome of the border showdown as it will when the second-ranked Jayhawks (11-0, 7-0) play No. 3 Missouri (10-1, 6-1) on Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
In addition to annual bragging rights, the winner of the 116th meeting captures its first Big 12 North crown, advances to the conference championship game and stays in the race for the national title.
Missouri has been trying to stay within reach of its rival since a 41-31 loss at Oklahoma in mid-October. The Tigers had to keep matching Kansas victories after that.
``The last five weeks, we've known we can't lose a game,'' Pinkel said. ``Hopefully, we are mature enough to focus ... and not get caught up with all that other stuff.''
Last season, Missouri beat Kansas for the first time in four years.
What about Saturday?
``It's really hard to pick. They're both really, really good,'' said Iowa State coach Gene Chizik, whose first season ended with a loss Saturday at Kansas, three weeks after losing to Missouri. ``Both are worthy of representing the North, no matter who wins.''
Kansas State played the Jayhawks in early October and lost to Missouri on Saturday.
``Kansas has really improved. When we watched them getting ready for our game, I thought they were the best team we had played then,'' Wildcats coach Ron Prince said. ``I find Missouri very, very challenging. They are a very difficult team to deal with, with so many weapons.''
TEXAS TURNAROUND: Oklahoma's loss Saturday at Texas Tech did more than knock the 10th-ranked Sooners out of the national championship picture. It kept Texas in contention for the Big 12 South title and a possible BCS game.
The No. 13 Longhorns had an 0-2 conference record for the first time since 1956 after their 28-21 loss to Oklahoma on Oct. 6. They have since won five games in a row.
M, and Oklahoma loses Saturday to Oklahoma State, the Longhorns are the Big 12 South champions. That would put them in the Big 12 title game, where another victory would guarantee a BCS bowl berth.
M, which won last year's grudge match.
``We need to be focused on this game and not worry about anything around it,'' Brown said. ``After a couple of mishaps early, this team has been fighting every day to get back in the mix, and done that because they paid attention and did not look around.''
Bob Stoops has to get Oklahoma over its disappointment and ready for its rivalry game.
``We understand there's a lot out there. To have an opportunity to be your conference champion, we value that in a big way here,'' Stoops said.
M this weekend.
If so, who goes to the Big 12 championship game?
The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, and the three teams would be 1-1 against each other. The second tiebreaker? Division record, and all would be 3-2.
M, the teams that would be tied for fourth.
They all beat last-place Baylor, the next tiebreaker, and had no common opponents from the North - the next tiebreaker after that.
The final determination is the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings. Currently, Oklahoma is 10th, Texas is 13th and Oklahoma State isn't in the top 25.
HONORS: Quarterbacks Graham Harrell of Texas Tech (420 yards passing, two TDs) and Todd Reesing of Kansas (253 yards, four TDs in three quarters) shared Big 12 offensive player of the week honors. Oklahoma State's Nathan Peterson (three sacks) was the top defensive player and Missouri kick returner Jeremy Maclin (99-yard kickoff return and 360 all-purpose yards) took the special teams award.
EXTRA POINTS: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is appealing the $10,000 fine imposed by the Big 12 against him after harsh criticism of referees following a loss at Texas. Leach may not have to pay the fine anyway. A group of Red Raider alumni have launched an ``I Like Mike'' drive to raise money to pay the coach's fine. ... Kansas State has played all its Big 12 games, but isn't finished with the regular season. The Wildcats play Saturday against Fresno State. Coach Ron Prince said that game was moved to late November when K-State had the chance to add Auburn to its schedule as the opener. That also created an open date before playing at Texas, a game they won 41-21.

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