Putting this college football season in perspective, there is no question which teams deserve to be ranked in the top three in the BCS: Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame. However, there are a variety of considerations to make when trying to determine which two teams deserve to be in the BCS Championship. While the computer rankings count for a significant portion of the BCS rankings (1/3), the human polls play the majority role in deciding the top two teams. This year, voters will need to consider an additional factor that has never been an issue in years’ past.
According to multiple reports, Kansas State and Oregon originally planned to play a home-and-home series starting in 2011, including a potential matchup in Eugene earlier this year. The Wildcats cancelled the road game, however, in early 2010. The cancellation has voters asking themselves not only what if the Wildcats traveled to play the Ducks at Autzen Stadium, but also why they ultimately decided not to.
Both programs have run into scheduling issues in the past few years. With the expansion of the the PAC-12 conference, Oregon needed to shake up its schedule in order to allow for the required games against its new North Division rivals. At the same time, Kansas State needed to adjust its schedule in order to accomodate the addition of a ninth Big 12 conference game.
In addition, when offered the opportunity to play LSU in the 2011 Cowboys Classic in Dallas, Oregon asked Kansas State if it could reschedule the games for later in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Rather than trying to reschedule, Kansas State requested to cancel the series altogether. Oregon agreed, and no buyout penalties were paid by either program.
Kansas State says the decision to cancel the series against the Ducks was by a ‘mutual agreement’ with Oregon. Yes, the decision was mutual; however, it was Kansas State that ultimately initiated the cancellation, according to CBS Sports. The two programs could have made the home-and-home series work, but Kansas State no longer wanted to.
There are a variety of different theories as to why Kansas State asked out of its series with Oregon. Rob Moseley, writer at the Register-Guard, claims that Bill Snyder has a “reputation for favoring less challenging non-conference foes” in order to ease his team’s path to the postseason. This year’s non-conference schedule included Missouri State, Miami (FL), and North Texas, who currently have a combined record of 12-18, all at the beginning of the season. Compared with other non-conference schedules, such as that of Michigan (which includes Alabama and Notre Dame), it seems as if Kansas State began 2012 by playing three preseason games. An argument could be made that Snyder wanted to create a ‘cake walk’ for his team heading into conference play. Also, by choosing not reschedule the game later in the season, he may have cancelled the game in order to avoid a devastating late-season loss and ensure a top-tier bowl invite.
Another possibility to consider is that Kansas State chose to not only make its own road to the BCS championship easier, but to also make that of Oregon even more difficult. The Ducks currently sit at No. 2 (.9497) in the BCS rankings and trail the Wildcats (.9674) by a significant margin. This is mainly because the computer polls find Oregon’s non-conference schedule (Arkansas State, Fresno State, and Tennessee Tech) to be even worse than that of the Kansas State. Prior to Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M, it seemed to be a dogfight between Kansas State and Oregon for the second spot in the BCS championship. Although this is no longer an issue, it still begs the question: did Kansas State set Oregon up for BCS sabotage? Did Snyder realize that the cancellation would hurt Oregon’s title chances more than Kansas State’s, allowing his Wildcats to jump over the Ducks in the computer rankings? No one will know, but it is worth speculating.
Kansas State and Oregon aren’t the only stakeholders in this issue, especially now. With the Wildcats and the Ducks occupying the top two spots in the BCS rankings, their decision not to play each other possibly prevents Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish from receiving a shot at the title. Of course, had they played each other, one of the two teams would have fallen in the rankings, allowing Notre Dame to move up to the second spot in the BCS. Even Nick Saban has a reason to be upset; despite Alabama’s one loss, its brutal SEC schedule allows the Crimson Tide to make a case that they are just as good, if not better, than the Wildcats and Ducks. Now, instead of hurting Oregon, it seems that Kansas State’s decision not to play in Eugene has negatively impacted the rest of college football.
A Kansas State vs. Oregon matchup would have certainly added clarity to the BCS picture. Rather than doing what’s best for the college football landscape, the Wildcats chose to take the (seemingly selfish) route of bettering their own title chances.
Our very own Tyler Moorehead posed an interesting question: if Kansas State didn’t want to play Oregon, should we really make them? That may be the biggest question that voters will have to ask themselves.