Kansas State Wildcats

How Many 12-Team Playoff Appearances Would K-State Have Over the CFP and BCS Eras?

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Kansas State

The College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams for the first time this fall, and as a K-State football fan, I am excited that the 2024 Wildcats have a great shot at being ranked in the top 12 of the college football playoff rankings at the end of the season. Winning a conference championship now means an automatic berth and likely a first-round bye.

I have long been a proponent of an expanded College Football Playoff. For a program like K-State, there is always a little margin for error in order to be picked in the top two or four. And we may find that it will continue to be an issue with 12 teams as well. There have been a couple of years when one loss meant K-State was eliminated from contention.

It was frustrating during Bill Snyder’s run as K-State head coach that his teams would get better and better as the season went on. They were often playing their best football at the end of the year. Many times, nobody was playing better football than K-State at the end of the year. But with a loss or two earlier in the season, there was no way those K-State teams would crawl back up in the rankings to make a two—or four-team playoff.

 

Pondering this made me wonder how many K-State teams in the past would have made a 12-team college football playoff had it existed since 1998. A quick search of the College Football Playoff and Bowl Championship Series (BCS) ranking archives helped me sort through this, so I thought I would share the results with you.

The BCS was the initial system put in place in 1998 to try to match up the two best teams in college football in a national championship game. The four-team playoff was first implemented in 2014, and that was the format until last year. This year, the playoff expands to 12 teams. The five highest-rated conference champions will receive automatic bids with seven at-large bids. The top four ranked conference champions will receive a first-round bye. The College Football Selection Committee Rankings will determine the seven at-large bids.

K-State has been ranked in the top 12 of the College Football Playoff Rankings twice, meaning that if a 12-team playoff existed those years, the Wildcats would have likely received a bid. Before the College Football Playoff Rankings, the BCS rankings were used to determine the top two teams. K-State was ranked in the top 10 of the final BCS rankings seven times.

 

College Football Playoff

In 2022, K-State was 10-4 overall, 7-2 in the Big 12, won the Big 12, and was ranked 9th in the final playoff rankings. Since there were no auto-bids for conference champions, TCU made the playoffs despite losing to K-State in the Big 12 championship game. TCU ended up in the national championship game but was blown out by Georgia, 65-7. This K-State team might have made a run in a 12-team playoff.

In 2014, K-State was 9-4 overall, 7-2 in the Big 12, and was ranked 11th in the final playoff rankings. They finished 3rd in the Big 12 behind Baylor and TCU. Jake Waters was K-State’s quarterback, and Tyler Lockett starred at wide receiver.

BCS Era

In 2012, K-State won the Big 12 and was ranked 5th in the final BCS rankings. They were 8-1 in the Big 12 and were ranked as the number-one team in the country before losing to Baylor, their only loss of the regular season.

In 2011, K-State was 7-2 in the Big 12, 10-3 overall, and finished 8th in the final BCS rankings.

In 2003, K-State was 6-2 in the Big 12, 11-4 overall, won the Big 12, and finished 10th in the final BCS poll. This team, led by Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles, would have made a run had a playoff system been in place.

 

In 2002, K-State was 6-2 in the Big 12, 11-2 overall, and finished 8th in the final BCS rankings.

In 2000, K-State was 6-2 in the Big 12, 11-3 overall, and finished 9th in the final BCS rankings.

In 1999, K-State was 7-1 in the Big 12, 11-1 overall, and finished 6th in the final BCS rankings. Their only loss on the season was to Nebraska, who finished 2nd and 3rd in the final polls. This is an underrated K-State team that would have made a run had there been a playoff. Here are some of the legends on that team…David Allen, Jonathan Beasley, Quincy Morgan, Frank Murphy, Lamar Chapman, Jarrod Cooper, Darren Howard, Jon McGraw, Terence Newman, Mark Simoneau, etc.

In 1998, K-State was 8-0 in the Big 12, 11-2 overall, and finished 3rd in the final BCS rankings. Everyone knows the story about this team, regarded by many as the best team in college football that year until they lost to Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game. Had there been a playoff system in place, this team likely would have cruised to a national championship. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Going through this exercise cements in my mind that expanding the playoff to 12 teams is a great thing. We all know how great Bill Snyder was, but what if you could add “eight playoff appearances” to his resume? And he would have won one or two, maybe more, of those tournaments. It’s fun to think about. I hope 20 years from now I can talk about Chris Klieman’s “eight playoff appearances.” Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

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