KU Didn't Deserve Title Shot

Enough of whether or not KU should be playing in the Orange Bowl. Phog.net's Jim Williamson explores the reasons that KU really never deserved a shot at the football national championship

The national media – and by "national media," I mean ABC and ESPN – got their wish, misguided though it may be: Ohio State and Louisiana State will play in this year's BCS title game.

In reality, though, Bowl Championship Series officials probably could have thrown the top 10 teams' names in a hat and drawn two and no one would have been the wiser.

One thing is for certain, though: in a chaotic 2007 season when it could be argued that no one deserves to play in the national championship game, KU really doesn't deserve it.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the KU's greatest football season ever as much as anyone else. This Kansas team fully deserves a BCS spot if for no other reason than their one loss was a close one to a top five team as opposed to, say, losing twice to the same conference foe and looking bad doing it both times.

Most teams from a major conference with an 11-win season would be rewarded with a shot at the national title. This 11-win Kansas team, however, is an entirely different animal.

I'm not going to harp on the Jayhawks' schedule much. If you're a Kansas fan, you've been beaten over the head with how bad it is. You know where it ranks, and you know it's not good. You can't whine about KU's conference schedule, though, because it's totally out of the hands of the team, head coach Mark Mangino and the athletic department.

The KU schedule was what it was, though, and in the end, it created problems.

KU's best non-conference win was a 52-7 rout of MAC champ Central Michigan, a team that ended up with an unspectacular 7-5 record.

In conference, Kansas played four bowl-bound teams, going 3-1 with wins over Colorado, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. These three teams combined for a pedestrian 19-17 record. I'm not going to include the fourth bowl team, Missouri, in that composite record because KU didn't win that game.

Speaking of Cotton Bowl contestant, perennial also-ran and now national-caliber whiner, the Missouri Tigers, KU's lone opportunity against a legitimately good football team resulted in their only loss of the season. In that loss, KU didn't exactly have a strong audition for the national title game, either. In front of 82,000 people, a huge national TV audience and the College Gameday crew, Kansas found itself down 21-0 before finally getting on the board 37 minutes into the game. On the biggest stage, under the brightest lights, KU threw up on their own shoes.

Finally, I'm reminded of a sign an MU fan had at the Arrowhead game. It said, "KU Football: A Tradition Since September."

That's overstating it, but it's not far from the truth, particularly in the eyes of the people who vote in polls and who select teams to play in BCS championship games.

The crimson and the blue, football edition, have yet to resonate with people outside of the state of Kansas. Sure, it resonates in Missouri, but then again, most Tiger fans are satisfied with a 1-11 season as long as that win is over KU. That doesn't count.

The idea of a Cinderella story has never held any cache in college football; it's a theme that seems to get people all tingly in college basketball, especially in March. Everyone loved George Mason University in 2006 as they upset their way into the hearts of college hoops fans everywhere as well as into the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis.

But suggest that a nontraditional dark horse should play for the national title and most college football fans break out in hives. They become drenched in a cold sweat. Sometimes they collapse to the floor, shaking, in the fetal position. You can bring them around by holding them closely and gently humming, "Hail to the Victors."

KU is in the BCS because they had a tremendous year – the best in the school's history – and because they're a great rags-to-riches story. Remember, this is the team that was 2-10 – including a narrow win over a Division II team – in Mangino's first season. You've also got a colorful youtube-celebrity coach, a well-spoken Flutie-esque quarterback who claims "snake wrangling" as a hobby, an all-American cornerback who will talk all day long and – let's face it – a unique mascot people across the country are drawn to. They also boast a largely well-to-do alumni base that might be willing to sacrifice their 18 degree wind-chilled New Years at home for a few days of 68 and sunny. All this made the KU side of the Orange Bowl attractive to Orange Bowl officials.

Sadly, these elements aren't quite enough to make a championship team. The one thing missing from the Jayhawks resume is that big football name on the fronts of their jerseys.

Is it fair? No. But a lot of things aren't fair in the real world. Not to go all Jenni Carlson on you, but it's not fair that Missouri is on the outside looking in at a nice-but-uninspiring Illinois team. For KU fans, it's delicious schadenfreude and it's funny as all get-out, but it's not fair. (It's also not fair that Jenni Carlson is wasting a seat in pressboxes all over the country that could be occupied by a knowledgeable football fan, Or an outstanding sportswriter. Or maybe a bowl of cold mashed potatoes.)

I want to make a case for the Jayhawks to play in the BCS title game, but try as I might, I just can't.

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