FORT WORTH, Texas — Two games and the requisite worry are still ahead for what sure looks like The Greatest Team in Kansas State History. So as long as we understand chapters remain in the book, heres the latest plot twist:
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
Potentially the biggest night for K-State football since the 2003 Big 12 championship.
Collin Klein and the irrepressible Snyders are keeping the story going, their national championship dreams becoming a little more real every week. In the span of a few hours on Saturday night came the biggest jolts yet.
A muddy 23-10 win in front of a national television audience and sellout crowd here combined with a stunning loss at home by top-ranked Alabama took a chunk out of the worry over where an undefeated season would end for K-State.
I have no thoughts about it whatsoever, Wildcats coach Bill Snyder predictably said.
Thats fine, but the rest of the college football world will be talking plenty about it, trying to digest the thought that it is now almost entirely up to K-State whether it plays for the national championship.
Fourteen years ago, Texas A&M deleted K-State from the national title picture with a heart-wrenching overtime win in the Big 12 championship. This weekend, A&M paid it back by winning in Tuscaloosa and how about the irony of the Aggies promptly ending their new leagues six-year streak of national titles and giving their old league a chance?
I mean, its good for us, receiver Tramaine Thompson says.
Because even if Oregon and Notre Dame also remain unbeaten, the chance of K-State being left out just shrank.
College footballs new world will likely have K-State No. 1 in the all-important BCS rankings and No. 2 in the human rankings that are part of the formula. There is a sentiment that Notre Dames resume is better than K-States, but it is somewhere between unlikely and impossible that the Irish would jump the Wildcats into the BCS championship.
Before this weekend, the people whose lives revolve around studying the BCS thought the finish would be Alabama, Oregon, K-State and Notre Dame in that order.
Now, the projections just moved Alabama to the back of that line, and K-State should be good enough for a chance at completing the greatest program makeover in college football history.
Almost immediately after Alabama lost, noted BCS expert Jerry Palm updated his championship game to Oregon and K-State. As much as people talk about Notre Dames brand recognition, its interesting that the Irish are ranked better by computers than humans. The only way for Notre Dame to push K-State out of the national championship is for those humans to effectively cook the books.
It is in the nature of many K-State fans to expect the worst, and in a lot of ways they come by this honestly. But it sure looks like A&M took the Wildcats national championship hopes out of the algorithms and into the two remaining games at Baylor next week, then Texas at home on Dec. 1.
This means the most significant obstacles to K-State playing for a once impossible-to-even-dream-of national championship road games at Oklahoma and West Virginia and too many unbeatens ahead in line are now history.
There will be talk about Notre Dame playing the more balanced schedule, and you will probably even hear some SEC sycophants say their one-loss teams are better than anyone elses undefeated team.
But if this is the way it goes if K-State wins two more games and plays Oregon or whoever else for the national championship the Wildcats will have earned their way.
They have the Heisman Trophy frontrunner and the presumptive coach of the year. They put more than 50 points on four major conference opponents, beat one top-10 team on the road and two other ranked teams by more than 30. Texas looks to be improving, and should be a worthy opponent in a few weeks.
Even after all these years and a full generation now growing up knowing nothing but a world where the Wildcats are good at football, it is still a bit hard to process the idea of a school in the middle of Kansas playing for the national title to say nothing of making it ahead of undefeated Notre Dame.
But through 24 years of mostly relentless work by Snyder, an amazing transformation by Klein, and the belief of everyone involved we now live in this remarkable new reality.
Nothing is finished yet, of course. There is still plenty of time for another heartbreak. But the chances are shrinking, and we might remember Saturday as the most important day of the season.
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.