The Heisman Trophy frontrunner couldn't solve the nation's worst defense. The kicker that lost last year's Fiesta Bowl beat the BCS No. 2 team in the country. A team that last week feared it'd be stuck at No. 3 is set to climb to No. 1, and a team that last week fell from No. 1 has already reclaimed control of its national championship fate.
College football's soon-to-be-extinct two-team national championship format is alternately maddening and unsatisfying, but it does lend itself to nights like this. For the first time in five years, the BCS' No. 1 (Kansas State) and No. 2 (Oregon) teams went down on the same day. In fact, they did so within an hour of each other. And now everything you thought you knew about the 2012 title race has been turned upside down.
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Bill Snyder emerged from the Kansas State locker room, purple windbreaker unzipped, nursing a Styrofoam cup of coffee and looking as unruffled as usual. Snyder prides himself and his team on maintaining an even keel. But when he opened his mouth, you could see his keel hadn't been even all night.
"I don't think we handled the situation as well as we should have been able to," Snyder said. "It had nothing to do with young guys wanting to be successful. They wanted to play well. They wanted to play hard. They wanted to win. We just couldn't handle the environment as well as we could."
By "environment," Snyder didn't mean global warming, and he didn't mean the noise in Floyd Casey. He meant, in part, Kansas State's first-ever No. 1 rating in the BCS.
"I've wanted to think not but I can't assure you that wasn't the case," Snyder said, employing a sentence that, like Klein's interceptions, turned into a triple negative. "I think it has to do with how we handled the overall recognition that we were confronted with."
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Or consider this.
USC beats Notre Dame, Florida beats Florida State, and either Georgia or Alabama finishes 12-1. Add it up and it could be an all-SEC championship game for the second straight year.
Or there could be split national championship. Undefeated Ohio State is No. 6 in the AP Top 25 but ineligible to win the BCS title because it is NCAA-banned from playing in a bowl game.
If all the other contenders falter, Ohio State could be the lone unbeaten left standing and lay claim to the AP title.
Sounds crazy, but after Saturday night, nothing seems far-fetched.
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Just like last year, the die has not officially been cast yet. Alabama must face Auburn first, and if the Tigers needed motivation to play over their heads in this game, the prospect of knocking their hated rivals out of a national title shot is certainly it. The near-miss that Alabama survived in 2009 isn’t an old memory, either.
And then there’s a Georgia Bulldog team that, despite its penchant for underachieving, probably has as much pure talent on the roster as either Alabama or LSU. Any time there is that much talent on hand, the team that has it is dangerous.
But the fact is, after Oregon and Kansas State lost their respective games Saturday, Alabama is back in control of its own destiny. Win out, and the Crimson Tide is in the BCS Championship Game for a second year in a row. Something that looked like the slimmest of possibilities a week ago is suddenly right in Alabama’s hands once again. For such insanity to happen once is unlikely enough. For it to happen to the same team twice is almost impossible. For it to happen two years in a row, inconceivable.