With just five weeks left in the college football regular season, it’s starting to look more and more likely that there could ultimately be complete chaos surrounding the BCS national championship game.
The four top-ranked teams in the country—Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon—all remain undefeated, and all have a solid shot of finishing the season without a blemish on their records.
Unfortunately, the newly introduced four-team playoff won’t take effect until 2014, so we could be looking at a situation where at least one, and possibly two deserving teams could be left out of college football’s marquee game.
There’s certainly no guarantee that all four teams will finish the season undefeated. Remember, last year at this point in the season, there was the exact same situation, as LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford were all undefeated after nine weeks. In the end, only one team (LSU) finished the regular season without a loss. However, this is college football, and fans and analysts love to speculate about every possible BCS scenario that could play out.
If the BCS chaos theory actually comes to fruition and all four teams do finish the season undefeated, the one team that would most likely get “screwed” is Kansas State.
Besides Alabama, the Wildcats have arguably been the most impressive team in the country so far this season. Even though the team put together an incredible breakout 10-win campaign in 2011, Bill Snyder’s squad started the 2012 season ranked outside of the top 20 in both preseason polls. But once again, Kansas State has outperformed their modest preseason expectations, and this year, the Wildcats have proven to the college football world that they are indeed a legitimate national title contender.
Their resume includes victories over three ranked opponents: Oklahoma, West Virginia and most recently Texas Tech, and two of those wins came on the road in hostile environments.
Over the last few weeks, QB Collin Klein has ascended to the top of everyone’s Heisman favorite lists, as the dual-threat quarterback continues to dazzle onlookers with his brilliant play. Klein has completed nearly 71 percent of his passes for 1,630 yards and thrown 12 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. He’s also added 634 yards and 16 rushing scores with his legs.
Klein’s 175 passer rating, which currently ranks second in the nation behind Alabama’s AJ McCarron, has shut all of his critics up who labeled him simply a running quarterback.
The beauty of this Kansas State team, however, is that there are so many more valuable pieces than just Klein, who has soaked up pretty much all of the national attention.
RB John Hubert, Klein’s backfield partner, is one of the most underrated rushers in college football this season. Hubert, who bears a strong resemblance to former Wildcats star Darren Sproles, has already racked up 727 yards on the ground and scored 10 touchdowns. The 5’7’’, 191-pound junior may not be the most physically intimidating back in the country, but just ask any defender who’s faced him this year, and they’ll all tell you that he packs a ton of power and explosiveness into his small but strong body.
The backfield tandem of Klein and Hubert aren’t the only dangerous weapons that Kansas State has, however. The team’s receiving trio of Tyler Lockett, Chris Harper and Tramaine Thompson are all athletic playmakers who can stretch the field and keep defenses honest.
On the other side of the ball, middle linebacker Arthur Brown is the heart and soul of a defense that currently ranks 13th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 17 points per game. Brown, who has racked up 60 tackles, including 35 solo stops and six tackles for loss, has been playing at an All-American level this season. He’ll likely earn serious consideration for some of college football’s most prestigious defensive awards at the end of the season.
Brown’s joined by plenty of difference-makers on the Wildcats defense, such as cornerback Nigel Malone, safety Ty Zimmerman and DE Meshak Williams, who will all be vying for All-Big 12 honors this year.
On paper, there may not be a team that’s better equipped to knock off the defending national champion Tide than Kansas State. The problem is that the Wildcats are simply a tough sell to most of America. It may not be right, but it’s the truth.
Bill Snyder’s team doesn’t play a flashy brand of football, and the team isn’t loaded with a ton of well-known future high NFL draft picks. Instead, the Wildcats are viewed as a tough, gritty, wear-’em-down type of team that wins by simply being more sound and more efficient than their opponent.
That’s why the majority of college football fans would likely rather see an undefeated Notre Dame team or an undefeated Oregon team square off with Alabama in the BCS championship game.
For all of the criticism Notre Dame has received over the last decade, the fact is that the Irish are still one of the strongest and most prestigious brand names in college football. There’s a reason NBC shells out big bucks to broadcast their games, and there’s a reason that they receive a ton of publicity and coverage each and every season.
Oregon, on the other hand, has become one of the most popular teams in the country since Chip Kelly took over in Eugene back in 2009. Kelly has guided the Ducks to three straight Pac-12 championships and three straight BCS bowl games, including an appearance in the national championship game in just his second year.
Kelly has turned the Oregon offense into an exciting, high-octane attack, which has helped turn the Ducks’ talented trio of QB Marcus Mariota and running backs Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas into household names.
By the end of the season, if all four top-ranked teams are indeed undefeated, you could certainly make the case that Kansas State will have the most impressive resume of the three challengers. From top to bottom, the Big 12 was the strongest conference in college football last season, and it’s arguably even tougher this year with the addition of TCU and West Virginia.
The problem is that the Wildcats simply don’t have the glitz and glamour attached to their name that Notre Dame and Oregon have right now. Even if it’s not fair, voters and fans would most likely favor Notre Dame or Oregon, even if their overall resumes aren’t as strong.
This season, Kansas State is undoubtedly putting together the kind of campaign that’s worthy of a BCS national championship game berth. But in order to actually get it, the Wildcats are going to need their more popular undefeated counterparts, Notre Dame and Oregon, to lose at least one game between now and Dec. 1.