Kinder: Cats now No. 1 with a little help from… the Aggies?

By Joshua Kinder

Two wins by Texas A&M, nearly 15 years apart, might just be the most significant victories in Kansas State history.

One win — 36-33 in double-overtime against K-State in the 1998 Big 12 championship — ended the Wildcats’ best chance at playing for a national title in the 117-year history of the program.

That loss left a hole the size of Texas in Wildcats’ hearts everywhere. It’s a loss still talked about today. It burned, still burns some, almost as much as the night it happened in St. Louis.

The other win — a 29-24 victory at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday — might be what pushes the Wildcats into the national title game this season.

Sure, K-State did its part by outlasting TCU 23-10 to win its 10th game of the year — a tough win that should by no means be undervalued.

But to reach the title game, it seemed the Wildcats were going to need some help, or some very confusing math to swing into K-State’s favor in the last three weeks.

Now the only math problem the Wildcats need to focus on has the sum of two — all because K-State is now ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in the program’s history, thanks to those Aggies who broke the hearts of Wildcats fans so long ago.

Get two wins — at Baylor this week and then at home two weeks later against Texas — and K-State will get that national title game that slipped out of its hands 15 years ago in St. Louis.

Now that’s some math everyone can understand.

Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the BCS, might even jump K-State eventually in the coming weeks because of an improved schedule at the back end. But it doesn’t matter. The Wildcats won’t drop lower than No. 2 and that’s all that’s needed to get to Miami in January if K-State does in the next two games what it’s done all season — win.

I know Notre Dame has a problem with this entire scenario, being ranked No. 3 and seemingly needing a miracle from Touchdown Jesus himself to get into the title game. I get that. Imagine how K-State fans would feel if their team was left out of the title game after an undefeated season. But really, the Irish only have themselves to blame for the mess they’re in. They don’t have a conference, so there’s no title game, they aren’t playing on the final week of the season, so nobody will care, and if you go by the so-called eye test everyone keeps referring to, they fail.

Notre Dame eeks out wins every week it seems, needing two overtimes to defeat a lousy Pittsburgh team two weeks ago and then failed to woo anyone with its thrilling 21-6 win over a two-win Boston College team even Kansas would probably truck.

The only test Notre Dame has on its side is the history test, one that says they’re entitled to only the best because the Irish have been there before. And there’s that movie too. Everyone loves a Rudy, but this is big-boy football in a big-boy BCS that says Notre Dame isn’t quite good enough this time. Sorry.

Instead, it’s all about juggernaut Oregon and its offense I’ve been led to believe could actually destroy small countries, and a low-on-talent, nice little story that is K-State. That’s the title game nobody outside of Kansas wants to see. But frankly, it’s the way it should be — minus Notre Dame and any one-loss SEC team with hurt feelings.

Oregon’s offense probably is very good, despite the poor defenses it sees on a near-weekly basis. I’ll give the Ducks the benefit of the doubt for now.

But the Wildcats are also better than people think. Some like to call them boring — one national writer this weekend said they lull teams into losing. OK. Even if that was true, so what? In an age of points and no-huddle offenses in cool uniforms, what K-State does is often lost. K-State is a detail-driven football team, capable of scoring points, built on mistake-free execution in all phases of the game. K-State calls that perfection, and it has the wins in one of the nation’s toughest conferences to back it up.

But the deal isn’t signed yet people. Winning two more games at Baylor and against Texas won’t be easy. Nothing comes easy. Just ask Notre Dame and Alabama. I wouldn’t start to book flights to Miami this week, but there’s no harm in at least checking the prices.

The Wildcats are that close, that close again, to playing in the national championship they missed out on 15 years ago — thanks to Texas A&M, for the second time.

In a way, doing it this time, in coach Bill Snyder’s second go-around, seems sweeter for the Wildcats because someone far smarter than me once said, “you can’t tell where you’re going, unless you know where you’ve been.”

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