Path to BCS title appears clear for K-State

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Whether it was true or not, you've got to applaud the effort. Kansas State kept a straight face when it was over.

A few guys eyed the scores in pregame, they admitted, but nobody knew that a win at Amon G. Carter Stadium for Kansas State held an extra special significance only moments after the game began. Alabama's home loss to Texas A&M more than 600 miles away went final just after kickoff, and a win would likely land Kansas State the school's first No. 1 ranking in the BCS.

On the field, Kansas State looked like a team doing what it had done most every week this season: It played sound defense, grabbed a double-digit lead and coasted to a casual win. This one was a 23-10 yawner against a young, scrappy but ultimately overmatched TCU team that clawed its way to bowl eligibility with a double-overtime thriller a week ago.

Still, Bill Snyder said he didn't find out about the result that might have changed Kansas State's season until he was safely in the locker room. His reaction? Little more than a shrug.

A few more found out on the field after the game, but not many -- if any -- Wildcats were fessing up to having the results spoiled before their domination of the Frogs was complete.

"The fans were yelling at us, but they weren't yelling about the Bama game," linebacker Justin Tuggle said with a laugh.

Tuggle and the rest of the defense walked off the field to "K-S-U" chants from a sizeable purple contingent that stood out among the TCU "Blackout," an impressively loud crowd of 47,292.

It's a great irony, this willful ignorance of the Snyder CopyCats. Without Alabama's loss, Snyder could have pieced together a perfect 12-0 season and still been shutout of the BCS National Championship Game. Instead, the odds are high that the Wildcats would meet Oregon in the game's season finale, boxing out an undefeated Notre Dame team. (Imagine the laughter that sentence would have produced hardly more than a decade ago.)

Kansas State, though, turned its blinders on to outside factors that could have a profound impact on its future fortunes. Do otherwise and those same outside factors might very well be rendered irrelevant by a Kansas State loss. Either way, the first No. 1 ranking in school history seems imminent after an "any questions?" type of performance that featured a 23-0 fourth-quarter lead and a final score that might indicate the game was closer than it really was.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Tuggle said. "...Being No. 1 in the BCS doesn't mean anything. You don't get anything, any trophies for that or anything like that. There's still a lot of work to be done."

Kansas State's done that work so far this season, leaving little to no doubt about the best team on the field for 10 Saturdays running now. The Wildcats led by double digits late in a 24-19 win at Oklahoma, and didn't allow Iowa State's possible game-winning drive to cross midfield in a 27-21 win in Ames earlier this year.

The other eight wins on Kansas State's spotless résumé? Saturday's 13-point win is the closest, followed by a pair of 14-point wins over Oklahoma State last week and North Texas all the way back on Sept. 15.

"We've been going now for almost 3½ months now without any let-up," Snyder said. "The fact that you're winning, I think, keeps the mental freshness to a certain degree."

Kansas State has looked like mentally fresh every week, offering little to no evidence that a letdown like the double-overtime heartbreaker back in 1998 is coming. A 4-5 Baylor team awaits next week. Then two weeks to prepare for a hot Texas team in Manhattan. The Longhorns might just be inside the top 10 and provide a boost in the BCS rankings that K-State almost certainly doesn't need anymore. Get passed up by Oregon at some point? Who cares? Win, and Kansas State is in.

After the game, TCU coach and K-State alum Gary Patterson had a simple request for the man who built a program from nothing in The Little Apple: "Go win it," he told him.

Meanwhile, Snyder is shrugging on the doorstep of territory Kansas State has never tread upon. He's doing it with a blank look on his face, a freebie windbreaker from last year's Cotton Bowl on his back and a hot cup of coffee in his hand while tackling postgame questions and dodging those who request injury information.

"I apologize for being noncompliant," Snyder said before leaving the podium. Think again if you expect an update on the status of two very important ankles: those of starting safety Ty Zimmerman (five interceptions this year, including one on Saturday) and receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett, who has returned a pair of kicks for scores this year and ranks second in return TDs in Big 12 history.

Snyder's message to the team after Saturday's win was one that couldn't help but spark his players' imaginations.

"This team has no idea what it's capable of being and where it's capable of going," linebacker Arthur Brown recalled a few minutes later. "We have to continue to focus and continue to focus in on what's gotten us this far, and the sky's the limit."

If by the sky, Snyder means hoisting a crystal football on South Beach in early January, he's got the Wildcats pointed in the right direction.