MANHATTAN, Kan. — The man who should soon be national coach of the year is talking about his quarterback who should soon be the Heisman Trophy winner and their team that has a real shot at going undefeated, and the question hangs in the air like the waft of a rotten, buzz-killing fish:
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
Is it good enough?
Kansas State is through with the heaviest lifting on what looks like the greatest football season in school history, a 55-24 power-blasting of No. 15 Texas Tech here on Saturday thats sure to move the Wildcats up to No. 2 in the BCS standings.
But will it matter?
Thats the question everyone here wants answered, because even after Florida lost for the first time, K-State may end up powerless to make its own undefeated season good enough for a shot at the national title. Two years before college football moves to a four-team playoff, BCS experts think K-State would be left out if Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame each win out.
Its interesting that even in K-State coach Bill Snyders obsessive, never-look-ahead, get-a-little-better-every-day program, players admit thinking about playing the victim in what would be one of college footballs all-time unsatisfying finishes.
Yeah, I have, receiver Chris Harper says. I have. We might be the odd man out. You know? I dont think people want us to play in the game. So, I mean, we could be. So we gotta go out there and play like we did today, put scores up like that. Leave no doubt, so people cant leave us out of it.
This is real.
K-State is proving itself as good as any football team in the country, a mesmerizing combination of relentless offense and tenacious defense, and it might not be enough. Four games of more than 50 points against a major conference opponent for the offense, and three of the nations best quarterbacks stomped like roaches for the defense, and it might not be enough.
It would be just like college football that an undefeated team from a major conference might be left out of the national title game only months after finally agreeing to a four-team playoff that would eliminate this exact worry in the future and it would be just like K-State to be the school left out.
Collin Klein is at the point where he might not want to make plans for Dec. 8, other than to give a speech about winning the first Heisman Trophy in K-State history. He was brilliant again Saturday after a slow start, trucking through and throwing over one of the nations better defenses: 19-of-26 passing for 233 yards, 12 rushes for 83 yards, no turnovers and four total touchdowns.
Snyder should be a lock for national coach of the year, taking a team picked sixth in the preseason conference poll into the national championship discussion just four years after coming out of retirement to save K-State football again.
This is a team of overlooked prospects and second-chance transfers turned into a national power. Their star quarterback arrived as a wide receiver. One of their starting linebackers arrived as a quarterback. A cornerback is here only because he used to date the star basketball players sister and got a walk-on spot.
Thats what this team is, a sort of movie come to real life, except in this version circumstances completely out of their control may keep them from the Hollywood ending.
Were players, but were fans, too, Harper says. And were rooting for the other teams.
This is the simmering topic that K-State fans either cant stop thinking about or have persuaded themselves not to think about. Floridas loss to Georgia means the Wildcats will move into the No. 2 BCS spot, but the quirks of scheduling mean they are largely powerless to stay there.
K-States schedule is frontloaded with wins over Oklahoma, West Virginia and now Texas Tech already on film. But Oregons is backloaded with games against USC, Stanford and Oregon State coming up plus, presumably, the Pac-12 championship game. (Although Southern Cals loss on Saturday will hurt Oregons strength of schedule.)
And do you think an undefeated Notre Dame team would be left out?
Oregon already leads K-State in both the coaches and Harris polls, and would figure to jump the Wildcats in the computers with a series of strong wins. A K-State spokesman said the program has no plans to directly take the Wildcats case to voters, but that might change.
We tend to look at these things parochially and selfishly, so of course around here it would be painted as wildly unfair to K-State, and maybe it would be. But Oregon and Notre Dame are also terrific, and would have compelling cases with undefeated seasons.
The point is that months after major-college football agreed to fix its archaic way of determining a champion, a team may very well end up doing everything in its power but still wind up as the newest and perhaps strongest reason the system will change in two years. The perfect season for a four-team playoff may end up happening two years too early.
The Wildcats have four more games to win. They might also have a whole lot of hoping and politicking, then screaming and cursing.
To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow twitter.com/mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.