There were no surprises atop the BCS rankings released on Sunday. Notre Dame is safely entrenched at No. 1, and will play the winner of this weekend’s game between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia for the national title.
But further down the BCS rankings there lies a far more interesting story — the possibility of Kent State in the Orange Bowl. Yes, Kent State. Not bad for a team that started the year off by doing this.
The Golden Flashes check in at No. 17 in this week’s rankings with next weekend’s MAC Championship Game against fellow 11-1 Northern Illinois to go. This is significant because if any team from a non-automatic qualifying conference finishes the season in the Top 16 and is ranked ahead of the winner of an automatic qualifier, it receives a BCS bid.
With no team in the Big East even ranked in the Top 25 — and the league somehow still receiving an AQ berth — Kent State would find itself Orange Bowl-bound if it can move up one more spot in the rankings next week.
It could very easily happen.
The No. 16 team, UCLA, faces No. 8 Stanford in the Pac-12 title game after getting pounded by the Cardinal last week. (Woo-hoo, conference title games!).
The Flashes will also need help from behind. (That’s what she said?). Texas is ranked 18th and poised to jump Kent State in the standings if it can beat No. 6 Kansas State this weekend.
Based on the early returns from the internet and Twitter, a number of drips are of the opinion that Kent State making a BCS bowl game would destroy the very fabric of this fine system. And when you consider Kent State’s lone loss was a 33-point beatdown to a 2-10 Kentucky team, I can understand where these people are coming from. But they’re still spoilsports.
Kent State in the Orange Bowl would be the best thing that could ever happen to college football. This is the ultimate feel-good underdog story. Hickory High ain’t got jack on Kent State.
The Golden Flashes haven’t reached a bowl game of any variety since the 1972 Tangerine Bowl, an event that took place only two years after the shootings that are the primary reason most of America knows the school exists.
For over a decade, the Flashes were among the most inept programs on the face of the earth. From 1989-2000, Kent State’s overall record was 16-115-1. Yes, that is 16 total wins in 11 seasons.
How bad was it?
The best NFL player to come out of Kent State in the last decade, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, didn’t even play football there. He was the star of the basketball team that made a run to the 2002 Elite Eight, which turned out to be a better recipe for making the NFL than actually playing for the football team would have.
In one final, perfect twist, a Kent State appearance in the Orange Bowl would actually serve as a fitting dress rehearsal for an Alabama-Notre Dame national title showdown.
A key member of Kent State’s 1972 Tangerine Bowl team? Senior defensive back Nick Saban.
Another prominent Kent State alumnus in the coaching world? The last man to win a national title at Notre Dame, Lou Holtz.
One of the two party-crashers at this spring’s College World Series? Yup. Kent State. (The other, Stony Brook, is still alive in the Championship Subdivision playoffs).
The stars are aligning, people. Like it or not, this is the year of the Golden Flash.