In the weekly ranking from the College Football Playoff Committee, the Kansas State Wildcats were ranked at No. 10 in the country, placing K-State as the highest three-loss team in the country. Even so, the idea of there being nine teams better than the Wildcats is up for judgment.
Now, losing three games and having zero wins over current top-25 teams does give the committee the right to hold it against K-State when comparing it to the best teams in the country. However, there are not nine teams better than the Wildcats at the moment.
All three losses for K-State have come against teams ranked inside the top 25: No. 3 TCU, No. 18 Tulane and No. 20 Texas. In all three matchups, K-State had the opportunity to win but fell short in the end. The Wildcats even had TCU down 18 points as quarterback Will Howard was pushed into action due to quarterback Adrian Martinez’s injury.
Howard’s performance in his five appearances, starting with the TCU game, have been the catalyst to the climb in the rankings. Howard now has full control of the offense as the starter, averaging over 47 points per game in his three starts. The Wildcats have won those three games by an average of 28.3 points per game. With a balanced offensive attack and a defense that continues to show promise despite multiple season-ending injuries, K-State has the ability to match up with nearly any team and any style of play despite their losses.
Ahead of the Wildcats are the two-loss Clemson Tigers ranked at No. 9. Clemson started off the season with a 8-0 record before suffering two losses in their next four games. The first came to the then-unranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a 35-14 blowout. Clemson then fell to South Carolina 31-30 to finish their regular season. The Wildcats recent quality of play shows that, at the least, the Wildcats should have been placed ahead of the Tigers.
The No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers, however, have earned their ranking. Tennessee once had hopes for the playoff, but that opportunity is gone. They fell to a South Carolina team 63-38, who was just blown out by unranked Florida, and they lost potential Heisman winner quarterback Hendon Hooker. K-State does not have the resume wins of LSU and Alabama that Tennessee has, but in a matchup today, the Wildcats would have the advantage, as the addition of Howard would go favorably against the loss of Hooker.
Luke’s Locker: The rare, good quarterback controversy
Next comes No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Alabama, two historic programs. Each team has landed their rankings mostly due to name value. Ohio State started the season looking like the best offense in the country. Now, as the weather has become more frigid, the high-flying offense has shown struggles, scoring only 21 points against a one-win Northwestern team and falling to No. 2 Michigan by 22 points. In a game with freezing temperatures, the Wildcats’ physicality gives them the edge against the Buckeyes.
The historic Alabama Crimson Tide, the presumed Sugar Bowl matchup for K-State by nearly all major sports outlets, is not the same as it was in past years. Alabama has been carried by quarterback Bryce Young with his game-saving performances, overcoming lackluster wide receiver and offensive line play. A Sugar Bowl victory would be a tough task for K-State, but the opportunity will be there to take down the legend that is head coach Nick Saban.
Every team outside the current top 4 of Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC has shown major flaws this season. While none of the teams ranked ahead of K-State have lost three times, few have proven themselves to be worthy of a higher tier than the Wildcats. In a matchup today, K-State has the ability to take down any one of these five teams. A Big 12 Championship would only further show evidence towards the Wildcats being one of the top teams in the country and beg the question for how many teams are truly better than the K-State Wildcats.