Salty or Sweet, the Life of an Unselected Sugar Bowl Team

NOTE: This is an entry by guest blogger Matt Marchesini, a student at Kansas State University. Enjoy.

The BCS? Come on, it’s practically foolproof. Let’s have the winners of the major conferences play each other, add a few at-large teams of equal quality, and have ourselves some fun. It’ll get millions of viewers for each game, the stadiums will be packed full of fans from both teams, and each school, win or lose, will get a gigantic payday. It’s a win-win situation.

Except when it doesn’t work out that way.

Now, I might be a bit biased. As a student at Kansas State University, and a fanatic of our athletic programs, our weekend started with a slight shot of making a BCS bowl this year. If we talk about our year in general, we were chosen in the preseason poll as 8th best. 8th best in the county? Hell no.  8th best in the Big XII. Having a slight shot to make a BCS bowl with this team was unheard of back in September, especially coming off a 10-7 win against some FCS team known as THE University of Eastern Kentucky. But now, after a whirlwind season of close games, and with some help from the competition, we now have a chance to go BCS bowling for the first time since 2003. With a win against Iowa State, a win by Oklahoma State, and losses by Houston and Virginia Tech, our chance to be selected as an at-large would increase significantly. Well, as Saturday went on, we could check off everything we needed. A win against Iowa State? EMAW (Every Man a Wildcat, to save you the trouble of Google). A win by Okie State? Go Pokes.  Losses by Houston and Virginia Tech? Yes to both. The Gods must want to see K-State partying it up in New Orleans. Bourbon Street wouldn’t have seen it coming.

Speaking of things we couldn’t see coming, it would probably be the disgust of updating Twitter every three minutes Sunday afternoon and night after seeing “Sources say Virginia Tech has been selected to play in the Sugar Bowl.” Uh, what? Out of all teams in the BCS who were eligible, they were picked? We knew Michigan was going to be one of the teams selected. After all, ESPN was practically on the street corner selling its soul for the Maize and Blue. But not us, we aren’t going to be playing them? The city of Manhattan was about to see a riot break out on the streets. 8th in the BCS, and relegated to the freaking Cotton Bowl? The season seemed to come to a screeching halt, for reasons seemingly beyond our control.

If you look at Virginia Tech in comparison to K-State, it would seem like an easy choice towards the latter. K-State finished higher in the BCS, has more top 25 wins, and plays in the second-toughest conference in the nation. Their finish in that conference? 2nd, with two losses, a 7 point one to 3rd ranked Oklahoma State in Stillwater, and a lopsided loss to #14 Oklahoma at home. To compare, Virginia Tech is three spots lower than K-State, has no top 25 wins, plays in a somewhat mediocre conference, and lost to Clemson convincingly not once, but twice this year. That Clemson team lost to a bad NC State team badly a few weeks ago. Sweet resume there, Hokies.

Yes, my purple glasses are on when writing this, as they always will be. But I’m not the only one who has this issue. The selection of Virginia Tech has been talked about heavily by the media since Sunday night. Type in Virginia Tech and Sugar Bowl together on Google, and you’ll see the media having a field day on this one. So why did it happen? Many reasons point to their fan base, which travels well to any and all bowl games the Hokies play in, along with the name brand of being Virginia Tech. Although I can agree with the final point, I swear I remember Virginia Tech having trouble selling its Orange Bowl allotment last year. And this year, they have 5,000 tickets sold out of a total allotment of 17,500 for the Sugar Bowl. Michigan is triple that in sales right now. Woof.

For the record, K-State has also been known as a school that travels for anything and everything. We have the two largest crowds to cross state lines to watch a football game, including having over 45,000 fans attend the Cotton Bowl back in 1997 and over 40,000 attending the Fiesta Bowl back in 2003. We travel well, not just to see our team play, but because we want people to notice that we care about our team and our school. Oh by the way, our allotment of tickets for the Cotton Bowl is 12,500 this year. That allotment sold out on preorders last Wednesday to alumni and donors. That number doesn’t even count students and alumni who were waiting to hear about the destination before purchasing. No matter what, we were set to travel with our bags packed to any destination that would host us. It could be Dallas, New Orleans, San Diego, or snowy New York City in December; for all we cared, we just wanted to see our team play in the best place possible.

This selection puts schools like K-State, Arkansas, Boise State, and South Carolina wondering what they have to do to be selected on the kickball team known as the BCS, and not be on the sideline like the other nerds. Well, the obvious one would be to win their conference. But of course, like any other year, you can see the influx of power conference schools that are good enough in the polls to make it to a BCS bowl without a conference trophy sitting on their mantle (see Kansas in 2008). It happens, and more often than not, the right selections are made, and the average college football fan can rejoice.

Rejoicing might not be the right term here in K-State country. Although to be selected to the Cotton Bowl to play a damn good Arkansas team in Jerryworld is a very exciting venture for the program, all we can wonder is what might have been. What might it have been to play a Michigan team who’s also coming off a long timeframe of not being selected for a BCS bowl? A game featuring a flashy dual-threat  quarterback in Denard Robinson, versus an unheralded, no-name guy who has received a few votes for the Heisman this year in Collin Klein (Please, enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rw9dn-7p7NY) The new Michigan Man of Brady Hoke versus the hall of fame coach in Bill Snyder. An entertaining game, no less. But it just wasn’t meant to be.

So, Sugar Bowl, you can enjoy everything you have to offer this year. This matchup of Virginia Tech and Michigan is sure to be a crowd pleaser. I mean, the fans were already “really” supportive of the matchup for the championship this year and that “awesome” matchup of the Orange Bowl, right? Although I’ll sit down and watch fellow Big XII school Oklahoma State in this BCS season, I’m determined to stick with college basketball, and never set my eyes on the farce that can be known as this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl.