The BCS race is heating up as teams jockey for position in the race for a national championship. With five undefeated teams ranked at the top of the BCS standings, a case could be made for any of them to be in it at the end. But without head-to-head matchups, it’s all just talk and posturing from fans and pundits.
It almost wasn’t, though, for two of those top five teams. The Kansas State Wildcats and Oregon Ducks, ranked No. 3 and No. 4, were set to play a home-and-home series starting last season that was called off at the last minute. That would have pitted the Ducks and Wildcats against each other this season during the teams’ non-conference slates, something that Oregon has been getting killed for in the computer rankings.
So what went wrong? Well, as is the case with most things, we can blame Jerry Jones.
Oregon was set to take on K-State last season when the 2011 Cowboys Classic offered the Ducks a slot against the LSU Tigers. Oregon executive assistant AD Dave Williford contacted Kansas State to reschedule the game. The Wildcats, saying that they couldn’t reschedule because they were moving to a nine-game conference schedule, countered with ‘let’s just call off the home-and-home,’ and Oregon agreed.
According to reports, the move left Oregon a bit upset as they had to scramble to fill out their schedule. But in addition to a minor inconvenience in scheduling, the move did more damage to the Ducks than they probably realized. Oregon’s non-conference schedule this year was a team from the Sun Belt, a team from the Mountain West Conference and an FCS opponent.
In other words, it was weak. That weak non-conference schedule has torpedoed Oregon’s standing in the computer rankings, which take strength of schedule into account, and caused the Ducks to fall in the BCS despite convincing wins in the last two weeks.
Ironically, the team benefiting from Oregon’s BCS tumble is Kansas State. The Wildcats jumped the Ducks this week in the BCS standings after their convincing win over the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Had the teams played their home-and-home series, that scenario never would have happened. A K-State win would have given the Cats a firm hold on the No. 3 spot in the first BCS rankings (and maybe even No. 2). A win for Oregon would have eliminated the perception that they schedule soft and bolstered their computer rankings, which would have given them a boost in their BCS average.
It’s interesting to note that Oregon was actively trying to give themselves a tougher schedule. In 2011, they wanted to play both LSU and K-State with a rematch against the Wildcats for 2012. That would have really put a dent in the “Yeah, but they don’t play anybody” argument against Oregon.
But the real loser in this situation was the average college football fan. In a landscape of early-season snooze-fests between big time college programs and the small schools they pay handsomely to beat up on, this would have been an epic matchup. Collin Klein and the Wildcats’ opportunistic defense against the unrelenting tempo of Chip Kelly‘s blur offense? That would have been must-see TV.
It wasn’t meant to be, however, as K-State decided to walk away rather than reschedule. So now, as the two undefeated teams jockey for position in the national title race, we are left with nothing but “what ifs” and wild speculations about which team is better.
Undoubtedly, it will all shake out by season’s end, with one team ranked above the other. But for now we can look back and think about the game we almost got to see, if it wasn’t for that meddling Jerry Jones.