Kansas State is well on its way to its first 12-win season in school history and first undefeated regular season under coach Bill Snyder. As perfect as that sounds, there is still a good possibility that things might not end perfectly for the Cats this season.
Kansas State dominated another quality Big 12 opponent, Kansas came surprisingly close to win a conference game, but still lost, in the last half-minute of the game. And Oklahoma can't beat Notre Dame - or "Notre Same," as one Oklahoma City sportswriter described the déjà vu outcome of the game Saturday night at Oklahoma between two of college football's most prestigious programs - regardless of where the game is played.
Elsewhere in the Big 12 over the weekend, Iowa State handed Baylor its fourth consecutive conference loss without a win, and Oklahoma State came alive after spotting TCU a two touchdown lead to start the game and rolled to a 36-14 victory. It was conference newcomer TCU's third loss of the season against five wins. The Horned Frogs had not lost that many games in the previous two seasons combined, going 24-2 over that period.
Those are the headlines of Week 9 in Big 12 football, but the real story is how Kansas State has put itself in prime position to be one of the two teams to play for the BCS National Championship at the end of the season. The Wildcats and their Heisman Trophy front-runner, quarterback Collin Klein, moved into the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings this week, behind No, 1 Alabama but ahead of also undefeated Notre Dame and Oregon. With just four or five games remaining in the regular season, four for Kansas State, we could have a very interesting and controversial finish to the season because of the real possibility that all four of these teams could end the season undefeated.
The BCS formula ultimately would decide which two teams were the most deserving to play in the national title game, but that means, given this scenario, one or more other teams would be left out. If this were to happen, you can only imagine the firestorm that would be directed once again at the lame-duck BCS system. Beginning in 2014, the much maligned BCS, which has been in place since 1998 to decide which 10 top major college teams will play in the five top bowl games every year (Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and National Championship, will be replaced by a widely popular playoff system involving the top eight teams.
There hasn't been a year gone by, it seems, that there hasn't been some huge controversy involving the BCS and which team(s) should or should not be playing in the national title game. What's frightening about all of this and very relevant to the Big 12 and the improbable season that Kansas State has put together so far is that the likely conference champion Wildcats could end up being the victim, through absolutely no fault of their own, when BCS Selection Sunday rolls around the first Sunday in December.
It all will come down to that if the top four teams in this week's BCS rankings win out over their remaining games. Kansas State is in the best position of the four to run the table and finish undefeated. The Cats have Oklahoma State at home this coming weekend, followed by back-to-back trips to TCU and Baylor before finishing the regular season at home against Texas. Oklahoma State is the best of the four opponents left on the schedule for coach Bill Snyder's bunch, but the Cowboys, the defending conference champions, aren't the same team playing away from home.
Alabama has perhaps its toughest test of the season this weekend at fifth-ranked LSU, the best one-loss team in the country right now, in a rematch of last season's national championship game. Oregon has games remaining at USC on Saturday, followed by California, Stanford and at Oregon State. If the Ducks successfully make it through the next month undefeated, they will then go to the Pac-12 championship game.
Notre Dame, like Kansas State, will not have to play in a conference championship, and all the Irish have left on their schedule is Pittsburgh, Boston College, Wake Forest and USC. Southern Cal appears to be the only real obstacle between Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish's first perfect regular season since 1988 under coach Lou Holtz.
All of this to point out that, while there is still a third of the season to be played. And it is not far-fetched to conceive that the selection of the team to play Alabama, should the BCS rankings stay as they are today, will not be a clear-cut choice. And therein lies the perfect-storm nightmare for Kansas State.
There is no question Kansas State has played a formidable schedule - there certainly is nothing easy about the Big 12, with six teams ranked in the nation's top 25 - but assuming that the Wildcats finish the year undefeated headed into the bowl season, will the overall quality of their opponents be deemed stronger than a undefeated Oregon, Alabama or Notre Dame? Remember that Oregon and Alabama would still have to survive a conference championship, which Kansas State and Notre Dame would not.
Devine intervention or not, there is no way Kansas State would get the nod over an undefeated Notre Dame. Say or think what you want, but this just won't happen. The same would hold true for an unbeaten Oregon. And forget it, if the choice were to come down to an unbeaten SEC champion, in this case Alabama, and the undefeated Big 12 champion. Chalk it up to one of the consequences - and a huge one - of not having a conference championship game.
The formula is pretty straight forward: Kansas State must finish off its remaining four opponents and then hope for Alabama, Oregon or Notre Dame to stumble along the way. If K-State remains perfect and at least two of the aforementioned title contenders don't follow, suit, we can all make plans to root for the Big 12 champions when they take dead aim at the national championship in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 7.
Until then, it's watch and wait.
Here are some interesting facts and figures to ponder from the Big 12 games this past weekend:
Five things we learned from Week 9 in Big 12 football
- Kansas State scored 42 of its 55 points against Texas Tech Saturday in the second half. Through the first eight of its 12 regular-season, Kansas State has outscored its opponents by 149 points (216-67) in the final 30 minutes of the game.
- Oklahoma State has held each of its last three conference opponents to under 20 point. This is the first time the Cowboys have accomplished this since the 1986 season.
- Texas Tech's Seth Doege was 35 of 50 passing for 331 yards against Kansas State on Saturday. He is the first quarterback to throw for over 300 yards against the Wildcats' defense this season.
- Texas came from behind very late to turn away Kansas' bid for an upset that would have halted the Jayhawks 16-game losing streak in Big 12 games. In Mack Brown's 15 seasons as head coach of the Longhorns, Texas has posted 27 second-half comebacks and 15 in the fourth quarter.
- TCU's loss at Oklahoma State over the weekend was its third of the season, but it was the first conference road loss in the Big 12 and the Horned Frog's first conference road loss in 14 consecutive road games (one in the Big 12 and 13 in the Mountain West).
Next Weekend's Big 12 Schedule
Oklahoma State @ Kansas State
Kansas @ Baylor
TCU @ West Virginia
Oklahoma @ Iowa State
Texas @ Texas Tech
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