Even the longhorniest Longhorn has to appreciate the irony. At least just a little bit.
The Texas Longhorns, who about a year ago nearly broke apart the Big 12, then sort of saved it, then nearly broke it apart again, then probably saved it again in the end are now involved in a game that in all likelihood will determine the Big 12’s participation in the national championship game.
And the Longhorns are playing spoiler.
Not just yet, of course. But in two weeks the Longhorns face Kansas State, which is No. 1 in the BCS rankings as of now. The undefeated Wildcats face Baylor in Waco this weekend, but everybody expects K-State to win. Baylor’s only Big 12 win this season is over Kansas, which has lost to everybody except South Dakota State.
So the odds are the Longhorns will be playing the peculiar role of the underdog with an opportunity to hurt not only that day’s opponent, but every other member of their conference, themselves included. The BCS Championship Game payout is $18 million, which the Big 12 distributes across the league.
That it is Texas in this unique position is no doubt a delicious irony for its Big 12 rivals, and that it is Kansas State on the other end is perhaps the most delicious irony of all.
You may remember that when Texas’ Longhorn Network nearly caused the Big 12 to implode, with Texas A&M and Missouri leaving for the SEC, Nebraska already in the Big Ten, and everybody from the Pac-12 to the Big East reportedly threatening to plunder the rest of the conference, those schools with the most to worry about were those without strong, profitable football programs that were attractive to other leagues.
You know, schools like Kansas State.
It is important to know that when all this was going down, Kansas State hadn’t won more than seven games in a season since 2003. This was before last year’s Cotton Bowl run. Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Colorado — you could just lump them all together. They were the have-nots in small TV markets who had to be worried about out being left without a chair in the big BCS circle when the music stopped.
Texas was the Great And Powerful Oz.
I am using the past tense here, but that is not because Texas is no longer powerful and Kansas State is no longer a have-not in a small TV market. Speaking generally, those realities are fixed.
But this upcoming game — like Texas A&M’s win over Great And Powerful Alabama last week — is a good reminder that the great arbiter of sports is the field of play. Texas A&M doesn’t have anything like Alabama’s tradition, and the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences don’t have the SEC’s strength at the top of the league. But guess who’s not going to be playing in the national championship game this year — an SEC team.
Likewise, Kansas State doesn’t have anything like the Longhorn Network. Kansas State doesn’t make anywhere near as much money as Texas and it probably will never have the same negotiating power the Longhorns do when it comes to business transactions.
But guess who’s No. 1, and guess who’s playing spoiler.