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Outsider claws its way into college football elite

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If you can't take joy in what Kansas State is doing on the football field this fall, your heart is blizzard cold.

This is a story for the ages.

The Wildcats, claws sharp and fangs flashing, are 10-0 going into tomorrow's game at Missouri. They could end up playing for the college football championship Jan. 4.

If anything ever resonated silliness, it's talking about heretofore poor little K-State being undefeated and perhaps national champs. It doesn't even sound right, like praising the artistic qualities of mud wrestling.

This is poor little K-State, once exposed by a national sports magazine as the worst team in the history of the sport. Poor little K-State, headquartered in Manhattan, known as the Little Apple. Poor little K-State, a team that typically considered a game a success if everybody got their helmets on frontwards, nobody died, and opponents didn't get into triple digits.

Prior to the arrival of Bill Snyder, 14 coaches in 54 years tried to get the Wildcats to live up to their name. Every one ended up battered, far under a .500 winning percentage, and fired. Snyder is 76-37-1.

But it's obvious why the Wildcats are winning: They lead the nation in scoring with an average of 51.2 points and in scoring defense, giving up an average of 9.9 points per game.

However, the true wonder of Kansas State is that it is one of only a tiny handful of teams outside the elite inner circle to be able to break the code. In fact, among the 15 schools that have won national titles over the past quarter century, as determined by the Associated Press, there has been exactly one that was truly a new boy on the block.

That was in 1984 when Brigham Young University inexplicably ended up with the title. College football has been embarrassed ever since because nobody believes the Cougars were pick of the litter. Rather, BYU kept moving up only because every other contender kept losing.

Seldom are there sea changes in the college game. Over the last 25 years, Miami has won four titles; Alabama, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma three; Penn State and Nebraska two. Basically, if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes. Throw in Florida, Florida State, Michigan, and a few others and that's it. Every year is largely an instant replay of the last.

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