Saturday, December 3, 2011

They Don't Call Them The 'Cardiac Cats' For Nothing

Well, the regular season is officially over for the KSU Wildcats, and the news is good:  10-2.


That's pretty much all that can be said about this season.  KSU was picked to be 8th in the Big 12 at the start of this season, but Bill Snyder worked his magic and wove a tapestry that made the whole of K-State football vastly greater than the sum of its parts.  Behind Collin Klein -- one of the best QBs in college football this year -- the Cats beat everyone on their schedule but two teams: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.  Both were top 5 teams at the time KSU played them, and though the OU loss was ugly (representing the only true breakdown of the season, and that really only in the second half), the OSU game was a pulse-pounding, gut-churning heart-breaker of a game.

You know, a typical game.  Seriously.  Outside of the OU self-immolation and a blow-out win over KU, the Cats won every single game by 7 points or less.  Egad, this has been a stressful year!

Anyway, KSU's work is done for the moment.  A couple of things really jumped out at me this game:
1. Iowa State is the real deal.  Paul Rhodes has them playing hard, tough, inspired football.  Give him a couple more years and some high-caliber talent, and they'll be contenders for the Big 12.  I'm not looking forward to playing them next year.
2. Collin Klein's talk of teamwork is the real deal, too.  Though you probably haven't heard this in the national sports media, Klein was two rushing TDs away from both the Big 12 and the national rushing TD record.  He got one in the course of the game, and then had another opportunity on a read option play as time wound down and KSU was threatening.  What did he do?  He handed off the ball to RB John Hubert, who slipped through an opening and got the score.  He gave away his chance at a college football record because his teammate had the better chance of scoring and getting the win.  That's teamwork.
3. Bill Snyder is getting cheerful in his old age.  After the game, the on-field reporter actually got Snyder to laugh and joke with him.  That's the first time I've ever seen Snyder engage in chit-chat or cheerful banter with a member of the media.  It's kinda nice to see.
4. Who was the color guy on FSN's broadcast??  That doofus should be flogged, shot, and then fired.  I can recall at least four specific times where he had obviously no clue what he was talking about, and I genuinely wondered if he was watching the same game I was.  For example, KSU tipped a pass in the third quarter, and DL Raphael Guidry scooped it up right before it hit the ground.  Doofus stated unequivocally that the ball bounced on the turf, and that the pick would undoubtedly be reversed.  They showed three or four great angles on replay, and not a single one of them had any evidence at all to show the ball contacting the ground, much less the indisputable evidence necessary to overturn a call.  Shockingly, the pick was upheld.  Doofus was all over the map all game long, crediting great plays to the wrong running back, complimenting great tackles to people who weren't anywhere close to the ball, and generally being clueless.  It was worse than Bobby Knight broadcasting Big 12 basketball last year.  Shameful.

Enough of the rant...back to the Cats.

So, what happens now?  Well, it all depends on Bedlam tonight.  Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play this evening, and all the marbles are at stake.  If OSU wins, they'll win the Big 12 outright and lock down a spot in the BCS.  Depending on how the votes fall out, they have an outside shot at the championship game, but they'd probably need to blow out OU to win enough style points to persuade voters they deserve it over Alabama.  If that happens, KSU would be the clear 2nd place in the Big 12, but it's doubtful that a second Big 12 team would get into the BCS then.  If OU wins, though...that's when it gets fun for KSU.

If that happens, it'll be a three-way tie for the Big 12, which is great for KSU.  Given the tie-breakers involved, I think that OU would actually get the guaranteed BCS spot, but both OSU and KSU would be in the running for an at-large spot.  I realize I'm completely biased, but I think KSU has some intangible advantages here.  If you look at the losses, KSU's are by far the highest quality (OU and OSU, both top-10 teams).  OU lost to Baylor, which is no slouch at 5-3 in Big 12 play and currently ranked #17; they also lost to a woefully bad Texas Tech, which ended 2-7 in Big 12 play and 5-7 overall.  OSU would have lost to OU (tonight), but also to Iowa State.  Again, Iowa State is a good, solid team...but they're unranked, and only 3-6 in Big 12 play.  KSU holds this advantage.

When you really break it down, these bowl games are looking for one thing: the biggest payday possible.  KSU has historically traveled very well to bowl games, and there is every reason to believe they'd turn out in big numbers this year, too.  That means $$$.

Also, don't forget the emotional component.  It's an odd and new sensation, but the sports media has actually shown KSU a lot of love this year, and the nation always loves a good Cinderella story.  The Cats, led by Snyder and Klein, are exactly that.  When you add in the fact that they've won close, gutsy games all year long -- one of which was a 4-overtime barn burner over Texas A&M -- they're a marketing department's dream team.

Think about it this way - when your own team isn't playing, are you likely to tune in to watch a game between boring, vanilla, above average teams?  Probably not.  On the other hand, you might tune in to watch a gritty team with a compelling story known for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in one thriller after another.  That also means $$$.

Now, Kansas State is obviously not a marquee name like Oklahoma, nor a high-octane production like Oklahoma State, so theirs is admittedly an outside chance.  But hey, they've come through in the 11th hour eight times so far this year...who's going to say that it can't happen again?

No matter what happens, it's been a tremendous year.  Memorable, wonderful, heart-stopping, and awesome.  Kudos to the Cats, and best of luck in post-season!

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