KU Deserved Title Shot

Enough of whether or not KU should be playing in the Orange Bowl. Phog.net's Kevin Flaherty explores the reasons KU deserved a shot in this season's national championship game.

If you've been following any of the arguments post-BCS selection show, they probably go one of two ways:

1) Missouri, not Kansas, deserves to be in the BCS.
2) Kansas had a great season and deserved a BCS bowl.

Obviously, thus far, argument number one has been the most supported. Well, I'm here to
make you think about argument number three: why the Jayhawks deserved a national championship game berth.

Oh, sure, there are arguments for why the Jayhawks don't deserve a berth in the national title game, and we'll get to those in a minute. But before we do, think about this statement: never, not once, since the BCS's inception in 1998 has a major conference team been bumped from the national championship game for a team with more losses.

That's right -- Kansas set a precedent.

The BCS is a complicated formula used to supposedly weigh all factors to separate "like" teams to find two championship-caliber squads. In the past, that meant the BCS was used, as it was in 2003, to pick two teams out of a hat with three one-loss squads (USC, LSU and Oklahoma) putting their names in. The formula popped out LSU and Oklahoma, though USC earned a title share by beating Michigan.

Fast forward to 2004, when the BCS had a similar problem attempting to separate USC, Oklahoma and Auburn, three undefeated teams with similar resumes. This time USC and Oklahoma were the picks.

It seems like every year, there's a team that has a beef about not being selected. But never, ever before has the beef belonged to a major conference team with a better record than the other invitees. Sure, there have been discussions. In 2001, people discussed picking a two-loss Colorado team that won the Big 12 and beat Nebraska, 62-36, over the Cornhuskers, who, with one loss, didn't even win the Big 12 North. One-loss Oregon was another option.

But in the end, the BCS sided with the ‘Huskers, who went on to get stomped by a very good Miami team in the national championship. Many people used the logic that the Cornhuskers shouldn't have been in the game in the first place. While that may have been true, the fact was that the 2001 Miami team was one of the all-time greats, and was capable of hammering any of the teams that were put into that game.

That argument likely hurt Kansas this year, when people again cried out, ‘But they didn't even win their division!!!' Obviously, there's no arguing that fact. It was the Tigers, not the Jayhawks, who represented the Big 12 North in San Antonio. But in reality, was Kansas just penalized for losing the game that it did, rather than another one?

Think about it this way: if Kansas were to have lost to Iowa State, a team with a losing record at home, then defeat Missouri the next week at Arrowhead, the Jayhawks would have won the North, and that beef slides away. Kansas finished with one loss, which is more than you can say for several of the teams in front of them. LSU, one of the national title game contestants, was able to win its division with two losses. So was Virginia Tech, the team that wound up number three and Kansas's opponent in the Orange Bowl.

Kansas didn't have that luxury. With Missouri in its division, the Jayhawks needed to be perfect to win the North … or lose to a worse team instead. Kansas couldn't do it, finishing perfect but for that game in Arrowhead.

But apparently, even near perfection wasn't required for a title berth. When you're talking about putting the first two-loss team into the championship game in the history of the BCS, perfection has been put by the wayside by a flock of good, but few great, teams.

So how do you define greatness? In this wild and wacky season, I think the best description for greatness is simply "consistency." All this week, analysts have found ways to measure teams based on their best win.

But is this truly the best way to measure? After all, Stanford and Pittsburgh, two teams with losing records, each defeated a top-10 team this year. Does that make them great? No. All that a great win means is that a team was able to get up for one game … and in many cases, get the breaks necessary to pull off the win. For a team like Ohio State that is head-and-shoulders better than three-fourths of the Big 10 (not that that says a lot this year), it means the Buckeyes only have a few games on the schedule that are potential losses.

But for a team like KU, that doesn't have the four- and five-star recruits, or the luxury of historical intimidation, it's much more difficult. The Jayhawks had to bring it every week, and they simply picked the wrong week to play their worst game. The scary thing is, even though the Jayhawks squandered opportunities in that game, letting four trips inside the Missouri 30 and three inside the Tiger red zone go without scoring, Kansas still lost by eight on a neutral field to a top-10 team that played its best game of the season.

Of course, many people will point to KU's schedule as a problem. But look again and you'll see a Central Michigan team that won the MAC. You may notice Colorado and Kansas State squads that, while they wouldn't bump up Kansas's schedule, still were talented enough to serve as trap games for Oklahoma and Texas, the top two teams in the south. Kansas beat both of them on the road. Colorado was also good enough to travel to Lubbock and defeat an 8-4 Texas Tech team. Texas A&M knocked off Texas in College Station, the same site at which Kansas defeated the Aggies. Oklahoma State boasted one of the country's most powerful offenses, but the Cowboys lost by 15 at home to the Jayhawks. Even Iowa State was good enough to give Oklahoma a serious scare, and the Cyclones defeated both Kansas State and Colorado.

I mean, we're not talking about Hawaii's schedule. To quote Dan Hawkins, "IT'S THE BIG 12!"

There were plenty of teams on Kansas's schedule with shock potential. Kansas lost to none of them. That, my friends, is consistency.

Out of the one-loss teams, KU has the "most impressive" loss. Ohio State? The Buckeyes lost AT HOME to Illinois, a BCS bowl team, sure, but another squad that lost to the Tigers. That great win the Buckeyes supposedly had? Ohio State bravely went where one FCS (read: Division 1-AA) team already went this year in beating Michigan. Or maybe that big win was three-loss Wisconsin.

And don't get me started on the two-loss squads. It's one thing to get caught with your pants down once, but twice? That's just not national title material. LSU lost to an unranked Arkansas team at home and on the road to a mediocre Kentucky team. Both were supposedly excusable because of their great offenses … though both are worse offensively than Oklahoma State and Missouri. No, this was an "SEC thing."

That's where KU got screwed, jobbed and handled: the human element. Voters tapped Kansas as the number eight team in the country… behind six two-loss teams, including one that lost to Stanford.

Let's be honest here: if Kansas were named Nebraska, Oklahoma or Texas with a similar resume, they would be in the title game. Sure, people would scoff at their selection (as many do with Ohio State), and would still say they haven't played anybody. But Kansas sure as hell wouldn't be eighth in human voting, and the Jayhawks wouldn't be excluded from the title game.

Now, I'm not for a playoff, and I never have been. College football has so much to offer from its bowl season, and it gives a high number of teams a chance to end the season on a positive note, rather than just the eventual national champion.

But I am for fairness, and I believe that every team deserves its fair shot at the national title, regardless of what the name on the front of the jersey says. In that respect, Kansas got hosed.


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