LAWRENCE, Kan. -- In 1891, a time when Civil War passions between free state Kansas and slave state Missouri still smoldered, these two old adversaries first clashed on the football field.
They've met every autumn since. That's 109 years of punts and passes, draw plays and onside kicks, blocks, tackles, turnovers and touchdowns.
Yet, the winner of Saturday's game will take a 51-50-9 lead in the oldest series west of the Mississippi.
"It is amazing it's been so close," said Kansas wide receiver Byron Gasaway. "Don't ask me to explain it."
When the inaugural game was played at a neutral site in Kansas City, fistfights broke out in the crowd.
Civil War issues had long been settled when the 109th game was played last year at Missouri. But that didn't stop people from pelting Kansas players and band members with bottles and golf balls.
"You're kind of naive about this rivalry until you've been around it a while," said Kansas coach Terry Allen, who has managed to beat the Tigers three of the last four years.
"The more you're around it ... it just increases the intensity of this rivalry."
First-year Missouri coach Gary Pinkel quickly realized how much the game means to Tiger followers.
"Kansas is obviously a huge football game," Pinkel said. "When I got this job, I was told that by about 500 alumni in about two days. I don't think they care if it's my first year, how far the program is. They couldn't care less. They just want to beat Kansas. I got the point after a while."
The Jayhawks are favored by a single point in their 1 p.m. kickoff today. In keeping with the closeness theme, both come in with 2-3 overall records an 1-2 Big 12 marks. Both are coming off losses.
And neither is considered a likely candidate for a postseason invitation, which means the victors will be doing all they can to create happy fans in what's likely to be a losing year.
"This is a huge football game for both programs aside from what it already is," said Allen. "You've got a chance for both teams to get to 3-3. Both teams to get their second wind in league competition,
"I'm sure Missouri feels they've got a great chance to beat us and I'm sure we feel we've got a great chance to beat them.
"Aside all that other, this is a very big football game for the advancement of each program."
Without a doubt, beating Kansas would go a long way toward Pinkel's effort to rebuild the Tigers.
"We know this is a big week," said Missouri linebacker Jamonte Robinson. "It's in our minds in everything we do. We're coming off a loss and we're playing Kansas, so this is a huge game for us. If we come out to perform and we play like we practice like coach says, we shouldn't have a problem."
Kansas, which may be without injured quarterback Mario Kinsey, has not lost to the Tigers at home since 1991.
"It's like this is the week where what you've done so far doesn't matter, for both teams," said Missouri linebacker Sean Doyle. "We're both 0-0 going into this game and it's time to show that other school what it's like to be a part of a rivalry."