Editor's note: This column originally appeared in the Miami Herald
It’s long past time for me to punch myself in the face, recognize greatness for what it is and enjoy this special run by Kansas State.
A few weeks ago in this space, I wrote a regretfully amateurish column about the Wildcats. The premise of the column — nobody outside of Manhattan, Kan., wants to watch Kansas State in the BCS title game — was sound enough, but backing that up with arguments such as “Bill Snyder is boring” was just immature, never mind irrelevant.
Who cares if he’s boring or the life of the party, right? The man can flat-out coach football.
Anyway, I’m sure there are still plenty of people who would rather watch a more traditionally relevant team in the BCS National Championship Game than Kansas State — the majority of football-watching adult males ages 18-49, according to TV ratings — but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Kansas State is the best team in the best conference in college football.
Yes, for one season at least, the Big 12 has moved past the Southeastern Conference for the top honor. According to Jeff Sagarin’s conference ratings system, the Big 12 leads the SEC by 0.98 points entering the 12th week of the season. All it took for the Big12 to overtake the SEC, apparently, was losing Texas A&M. I know, that makes no sense, but that’s the beauty of college football.
At the beginning of the season, I’m sure some fans of the Big 12 were still stewing about the Aggies’ departure for the SEC. Now, that move — and Texas A&M’s upset of Alabama — might be the insurance policy that puts Kansas State in the BCS title game.
You had a good run, SEC, but Nick Saban passed on fourth-and-goal at the 2 with the best offensive line in college football and a running back built like a tank. Very “un-process-like,” Nick.
Of course, there’s still time for the SEC to back into the national title game, but, according to the numbers men at Bovada, Alabama is now somewhat of a long shot, 17-2, to win the BCS national championship. Oregon is the odds-on favorite, with even odds (1-1) to win the title. Bovada placed odds of Kansas State winning in Miami at 17-10 and Notre Dame at 6-1.
Kansas State still needs victories over Baylor and Texas to ensure its spot in the national title game. Oregon has a little more work to do with Stanford on Saturday, a rivalry game against two-loss Oregon State in two weeks and, if you want to look ahead, a win against either UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 title game. Then there’s Notre Dame, which seems to teeter on the edge of disaster every week.
So there’s still work to do, and the BCS picture is a long way from becoming clear. No one needs to remind longtime fans of Kansas State of potential pitfalls late in the season. None other than Texas A&M defeated the Wildcats in the 1998 Big 12 championship game to spoil a perfect season.
Good thing for Kansas State it doesn’t have to bother with a conference championship game anymore. Never mind all of the banal arguments against one team or the other based on this ludicrous BCS system, Kansas State’s rise to prominence this season should be celebrated. The team plays the game beautifully, tied for No.1 in the nation in turnover margin (2.0) and No. 1 outright in penalties per game (3.2).
At the heart of the offense and the defense are two seniors worthy of All-American status on and off the field, quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown Jr.
Some Kansas State fans are fond of calling their quarterback “Optimus Klein,” a reference to the leader of the Transformers. Klein heads to Waco, Texas, this week as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Basically, he’s like the Midwest version of Tim Tebow, although probably a little more down-to-earth.
Brown needs no introduction in Miami. Although the former Cane never broke through on the field before transferring — Miami’s loss — he had a sterling reputation off it and many inside the Canes’ program are happy to see him succeeding for his home-state team. Two more wins and Brown will be coming back to Miami. He’ll have plenty of fans supporting him if he makes it.
What is it Kansas State fans are fond of saying? Oh, yeah, “EMAW.”
How about this? “EMMAW.” Every Man in Miami a Wildcat.
(Not a representation of my ballot if the season ended today.)
1. Manti Te’o, senior linebacker Notre Dame. 2. Collin Klein, senior quarterback, Kansas State. 3. Barrett Jones, r-senior center, Alabama.