This weekend the Kansas Jayhawks play host to the Buffaloes from Colorado in what amounts to a matchup of two teams in very similar places. Similar places for different reasons, but similar places nonetheless.
A year ago the Jayhawks current conference slide started with a loss in Boulder and since that night in October Kansas has failed to win a conference game, they've fired and hired a coach and the tailspin that has ensued this season has been dramatic and abrupt.
Colorado, on the other hand, enters the game in Lawrence boasting just two road wins in the last four seasons. Dan Hawkins is on one of the hottest seats in college football and most consider it a matter of time before Hawkins coaches his final game for the Buffs.
The meeting between Colorado and Kansas will be the final matchup of the two as fellow Big 12 North schools, and it represents a final opportunity of sorts for both. In Kansas' situation they have a chance to end the conference slide, get one last win and then head into a gauntlet of a finish against three ranked opponents in Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Missouri.
For Colorado the only "opportunity" is for Dan Hawkins to live to fight another day. A loss on the road in Lawrence most likely seals a fate that many believe is already decided, because a loss in Lawrence all but eliminates the slim bowl hopes that remain.
In a way this one is a battle of attrition. In the end one team probably sinks to the bottom of the conference while the other drifts in at fifth, but has anyone really won? Perhaps some confidence, or perhaps some momentum can be gained on the Kansas side. Maybe Dan Hawkins can build on a win in Lawrence and find a way to bowl eligibility. But what most likely lies on other side of Saturday for both these teams is another step toward the finish line and a fresh start.
Colorado heads to the Pac 10 just 4 games from now. The season ends, Dan Hawkins and the Buff likely part ways and a new beginning awaits. With Kansas it's one step closer to the end of a fairly disappointing season. Yes the win would be something to build on in the offseason, but right now that offseason couldn't get here soon enough. For a lot of Kansas fans it's about seeing what Turner Gill can do on the recruiting trail and finding out what if any changes are going to take place to right the ship.
It's two teams and two fanbases without much optimism squaring off in Lawrence. The only good news is the winner does get to boast a Big 12 Conference victory at the end of the day on Saturday.