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November 23, 2007

Who has the edge: Kansas vs. Missouri

MORE: High stakes | Video preview

Game of the Week: No. 3 Missouri vs. No. 2 Kansas
Kansas run offense vs. Missouri run defense
EDGE: Kansas Brandon McAnderson (161 carries, 1,009 yards) and Jake Sharp (137-788) have formed a one-two punch that has allowed Kansas to average 5.1 yards per carry. A late-season surge by Sharp would give Kansas two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time. Missouri had allowed less than 4 yards per carry against eight consecutive opponents until Kansas State ran for 150 yards on 32 attempts last week.
Kansas pass offense vs. Missouri pass defense
EDGE: Kansas Missouri's Chase Daniel is receiving the majority of the Heisman Trophy attention heading into this game, but Kansas' Todd Reesing also could emerge as a major contender with a big game. Reesing has thrown 13 touchdown passes in his past three games and hasn't been picked off since a three-interception performance against Kansas State on Oct. 6. Missouri's secondary lost one of the nation's top defensive backs when SS Cornelius Brown tore his right Achilles' tendon Oct. 27. Missouri is ranked 97th in the nation in pass defense, but that statistic is a bit misleading because the Big 12 features so many pass-oriented teams (the conference has seven of the nation's top 25 passing offenses). Missouri is ranked a much more respectable 43rd in the nation and third in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense.
Missouri run offense vs. Kansas run defense
EDGE: Kansas Missouri TB Tony Temple (127 carries, 634 yards) probably won't end up with a second consecutive 1,000-yard season, but he has heated up lately with 216 yards and three touchdowns in his past two games. Daniel doesn't carry the ball nearly as much as he did earlier in his career, but he's still a threat to run. Versatile WR Jeremy Maclin also has 38 carries this season. They all could have trouble finding holes against Kansas, which ranks seventh in the nation in rush defense and is allowing 3 yards per carry. Kansas has allowed less than 80 rushing yards in six of its seven Big 12 games (all but Oklahoma State).
Missouri pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
EDGE: Missouri Missouri arguably has more weapons in its passing game than any other team in the nation. Daniel has established himself as one of the nation's elite quarterbacks. Maclin is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball, while Will Franklin has caught 85 passes the past two years. Missouri also boasts two future NFL tight ends in Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, both of whom could earn All-America honors this season. Kansas has come a long way since finishing last in the nation in pass defense a year ago. Aqib Talib gives the Jayhawks one of the nation's top shutdown cornerbacks. The Jayhawks have picked off 20 passes this year and rank eighth in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Then again, they haven't faced a quarterback nearly as good as Daniel.
Kansas kicking game vs. Missouri kicking game
EDGE: Missouri Kansas K Scott Webb has gone 17 of 22 on field-goal attempts this season, but he's only 2-for-4 from at least 40 yards. Kansas P Kyle Tucker averages 37.4 yards per attempt. Missouri K Jeff Wolfert is 15 of 19 overall and 2-for-5 from at least 40 yards, while P Adam Crossett averages 38.1 yards per boot. Both teams have dynamic return men. Kansas' Marcus Herford has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns to help the Jayhawks lead the nation in kickoff return average (29.6 per return). Maclin is even more electrifying; he has scored on two punt returns and one kickoff return.
Kansas coaching staff vs. Missouri coaching staff
EDGE: Missouri Kansas coach Mark Mangino has the Jayhawks in national title contention, but they aren't accustomed to playing games of this magnitude. Missouri isn't exactly an annual BCS challenger, either, but the Tigers have played more big games under Pinkel than the Jayhawks have played under Mangino. That experience could give Missouri the slightest of advantages in this category.
Kansas will win if
Kansas must continue to avoid mistakes. The Jayhawks lead the nation in turnover margin and have just 11 giveaways all season. Kansas can't afford to reverse that trend in its biggest game of the season.
Missouri will win if
Missouri knows the value of converting on third down. The Tigers have converted 56 percent of their third-down situations (89 of 159) to lead the nation in that category. Kansas has allowed opponents to convert on third down just 30.7 percent of the time. This game could come down to whether Missouri's offense continues its season-long success in third-down situations.
Missouri WR Will Franklin. He has been lost in the shuffle amid all the hoopla surrounding Maclin. After getting off to a relatively fast start, Franklin has caught just eight passes in Missouri's past five games. A receiver this good doesn't stay this quiet for long. Although Franklin bruised his back last week against Kansas State, he's expected to be at 100 percent this weekend. Maclin has emerged as one of the nation's most electrifying freshmen, but a game this big often rests on the performance of a senior. Don't be surprised if Franklin sees more passes heading in his direction this week.
The picks
Megargee's pick: Missouri 34-31
Other Rivals.com expert picks:
Olin Buchanan, senior college football writer: Missouri 38-31
Mike Huguenin, college sports editor: Missouri 27-24
Bill King, Rivals Radio host: Missouri 38-35
Check out the rest of the Rivals.com Expert Picks.

Steve Megargee is a national college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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