John Klein: Behind Bama, BCS debate continues
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Monday, November 05, 2012
11/05/12 at 5:30 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Behind 'Bama, title debate continues
Kansas State finds itself in a similar spot to last year's Oklahoma State football team.
The Cowboys, with one loss, were in the midst of a heated BCS championship game debate among other one-loss teams, especially Alabama.
Now the Wildcats, unbeaten after Saturday's 44-30 victory over OSU, are in a three-way debate among unbeatens behind Alabama in this year's BCS Championship chase.
"They deserve where they are at being 9-0," said OSU running back Joseph Randle.
It should make for a tense and fabulously competitive final month of the season.
Saturday's drama should be the start of a compelling stretch of games.
Lightweights can suddenly become huge obstacles - Pitt against Notre Dame on Saturday or Iowa State against Oklahoma State a year ago.
In addition, there are showdowns ahead. OSU used a blowout of Oklahoma at the end of last year to put itself in a position to be seriously considered for the No. 2 slot. Similarly, an upcoming state showdown of OU and OSU (Oregon and Oregon State) could be huge in the Ducks' campaign to sway voters.
Alabama's fabulous comeback to win 21-17 at LSU on Saturday is the kind of drive that becomes legend. We're guessing Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron will never have to buy a meal in the state of Alabama again - ever.
McCarron drove the Tide to the winning TD on his last chance in the final minute. It was a thing of beauty.
"That last drive was something that I'll never forget," said Alabama coach Nick Saban.
And, Notre Dame, just because it is Notre Dame, will play close games and flirt with disaster.
If all four remain unbeaten, Alabama is the only lock. The Tide, defending champs and the toast of college football after the dramatic victory at LSU, deserves to be No. 1.
"I don't think we played our best game," said Saban. Now, that's kind of frightening. It is hard to imagine any of the challengers being better equipped and prepared than LSU was on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
The Crimson Tide still has a couple of chances to improve the resume with Texas A&M coming to Tuscaloosa on Saturday and the SEC championship game on Dec. 1. That's two quality SEC games.
If 'Bama finishes unbeaten, it will be the solid favorite in the championship game.
"Our players can either take this one way or the other," Saban said. "This win is either going to affect them in a positive way or a negative way in terms of what they do in the future."
Everything else is up in the air. Who deserves No. 2 will be a far more difficult and debated question.
We're not sure there is any good answer, short of the four-team playoff that is coming in two years.
Just like it was for the Cowboys last year, perception is reality in the BCS selection process.
If enough voters in the two human polls believe Kansas State is actually better, regardless of any stats, then the Wildcats should be able to hang onto No. 2 in the BCS standings and be in the big game, probably opposite of Alabama.
"They are a great team," said OSU kicker Quinn Sharp. "They deserve everything they've got.
"They did not make mistakes and that is why they are No. 2."
But, the absence of a Big 12 championship game, combined with high-profile games ahead for Oregon and Alabama, gives the Ducks and Tide the best chances to land in the title game.
Notre Dame, hoping its blue-blood pedigree and national reputation will be a powerful pull for voters, may have the longest shot if all four finish the season unbeaten.
However, no one should underestimate the national fascination for a national championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame, two of the greatest traditional college football powerhouses.
Notre Dame has played a string of dramatic games, including a 30-13 victory at Oklahoma two weeks ago. The Irish needed a little luck against Pitt, which missed a short field goal that would have won the game in overtime. Eventually, Notre Dame found a way to win, coming back from a 20-6 deficit to win 29-26 in triple overtime.
"They have to understand that everybody they play against will play their absolute best," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. "Our guys fought and persevered, kept playing.
"When it didn't look good, they kept believing."
Notre Dame has three games left - at Boston College, Wake Forest and at USC. That would appear to be the easiest of the top four teams' remaining schedules. But the way Notre Dame plays, it might be the most dramatic, too.
Everyone knew Oregon's schedule was backloaded with potential. The trip and rout at USC will be followed by a trip to Cal, home for Stanford and at Oregon State. Plus, the Ducks will have to survive a Pac-12 championship game.
If Oregon survives the end of this schedule, the Ducks may get a slight edge over Kansas State.
Or, why don't we just move up the start of the four-team playoff, scheduled in 2014, to December.