A week ago, despite being ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings, it might have seemed a little doom and gloom for Kansas State’s chances at remaining in one of the top two spots needed to play for the national championship, even if the Wildcats finished the season undefeated.
This week, however, the thought of K-State staying in one of the top two spots, ahead of Oregon and Notre Dame, might be gaining some steam.
First and foremost, the Wildcats, who maintained their No. 2 ranking in the BCS Sunday night, need to keep winning games.
K-State, coming off a 44-30 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, is still looking good according to the six computers that make up 1/3 of the BCS with an average ranking of No. 3.
The Wildcats, however, are still ranked No. 3 in both the USA Today Coaches poll and the Harris poll that make up the other 2/3 of the BCS — behind an Oregon team coming off a 62-51 win at Southern California on Saturday.
“I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as it was,” college football analyst David Pollack said Sunday night on ESPN’s BCS Countdown Show. “Kansas State has definitely shown me more on the defensive side of the football. Oregon proved me wrong on the defensive side of the football. I thought they were a much better team than that. That was a disgraceful showing against USC. It wasn’t like it was just bad… It was embarrassing.”
Assuming Alabama wins out, the Crimson Tide will stay at No. 1. Notre Dame, even if the Irish run the table, looks to be headed for heartbreak and left out of the national title conversation because it ranks too low in the human polls to make up ground.
That leaves Oregon and K-State to duke it out for No. 2.
K-State (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) has the edge over Oregon in strength of schedule right now, ranking No. 33 compared to the Ducks at No. 47. That’s a big reason behind the Wildcats getting more love from the computers than Oregon, which has an average computer spot of No. 5, coming in no better than fourth in any of the six computers rankings.
The issue going forward, though, is that K-State plays just one more ranked opponent this season in Texas on Dec. 1. Oregon still has to play two regular season games against ranked Stanford and Oregon State, as well as the Pac-12 championship game against either USC or UCLA.
Oregon could get a boost by the computers, possibly pushing the Ducks ahead of K-State.
What nobody seems to know though is just how much of a boost the Ducks will receive from their back-loaded schedule. ESPN BCS expert Brad Edwards said the boost Oregon needs in the computer rankings would have to be significant to jump K-State.
“Oregon, even with the win over USC, is still struggling to get into the top four — still one-loss teams ahead of them,” Edwards said Sunday on ESPN’s BCS Countdown Show. “If nothing changes with Kansas State in the computer rankings, Oregon has to get to at least three on half of those computers in order to catch Kansas State where it is right now.”
Edwards said Oregon can make up the ground, though, because the computers do seem to think more of the Ducks’ remaining schedule than the human voters do.
“Oregon State is a top-10 team in every computer, Stanford is a top-15 team in every computer and whether it’s USC or UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game, those are both top-20 teams,” he said.
“The only top-20 team left on Kansas State’s schedule is Texas right now. The advantage is Oregon, as far as having the opportunity to climb.”
Notre Dame pulling out a win against Pittsburgh on Saturday was actually good for the Wildcats because the Irish act as a buffer in the computer polls — ranked No. 2 — which keeps Oregon behind K-State.
The Irish, however, have a pretty weak schedule going forward, finishing with Boston College (2-7), Wake Forest (5-4) and USC (6-3), which almost assures Notre Dame of dropping at least a little in the computers. Even a slight drop by Notre Dame still may not be enough to allow the Ducks to gain as much ground as they need to leapfrog the Wildcats.
Now, there is one catch. The human polls do count for 2/3 of the BCS and Oregon is ahead of K-State there. If voters continue to be impressed by Oregon, the Ducks may not need as much of a boost from the computers after all.
“We know Oregon holds the 2/3 advantage with human element in the coaches and the Harris, but what we can’t predict is how the coaches and the Harris poll voters think how strong a number two Oregon will be,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “If they’re a really strong number two, the computers won’t matter as much and then that’s when you can see Oregon eventually go by Kansas State.”
On the flipside, if K-State can make up ground with the human voters, it may not matter what Oregon does in the computer rankings.
“I think Kansas State continues to impress people more and more and if they can close that gap in the Harris poll and coaches poll with those votes, that’s when the computer could become an advantage and give Kansas State an edge,” Herbstreit said.
Helping K-State down the final stretch is a Texas team that’s winning again. The Longhorns topped Texas Tech 31-22 on Saturday, moving Texas up to No. 17 in the BCS. If the Longhorns can win their games against Iowa State and TCU, it could set up a potential make-or-break matchup with the Wildcats in the regular season finale — on the same day of the SEC and Pac-12 championship games.
“I think what becomes more and more interesting is Texas and the fact that they’ve turned their season around — that’s a huge thing for Kansas State,” Herbstreit said. “Kansas State, if Texas wins these next couple games, the game at the end of the year in early December, when everybody’s holding that pen and trying to decide who’s number one, number two and number three, if Kansas State plays a Texas team in Manhattan with a healthy Collin Klein, and Texas comes in on a roll, playing very well, that helps Kansas State.”
Or Alabama and Oregon could just lose and make this entire BCS thing a lot easier to understand.