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K-State's loss dooms BCS title hopes, but Wildcats still top season-long UPS Index

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After a performance that almost certainly dashed its national title hopes, Kansas State may have trouble taking solace with the fact that it barely remains No. 1 in the year-to-date UPS Team Performance Index.

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It's also safe to say the team that's right behind the Wildcats has no interest in swapping positions with them.

Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, various special teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 120 FBS schools.

From there, balance is measured for all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas and overall winning percentage.

Kansas State has led the index for the past five weeks, but despite being given a clear path to the national title game with Alabama's loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 10, couldn't finish it out. The Wildcats, who came into Saturday's game against Baylor tied for the fewest turnovers in the FBS with six, gave the ball away three times in a 52-24 loss at Waco.

Coach Bill Snyder's team entered the day with the fewest penalties (32) and penalty yards (251) in the nation, but was flagged seven times for 60 yards against the Bears.

"We just didn't handle the environment as well as we should. We had six penalties in the first half, all on defense. Four offside penalties. Just lining up offsides. That's discipline," Snyder said. "Without discipline, you can play hard and want to and all that, but then you make those kind of mistakes. We made mistakes across the board."

While that loss dropped Kansas State to seventh in the AP poll - effectively ending its BCS title hopes barring a miracle - it opened the door for Alabama, which just a week ago seemingly had its championship chance disappear with a loss to Texas A&M.

The Crimson Tide had no trouble bouncing back against FCS opponent Western Carolina. Alabama turned in the index's top performance of the week, averaging 8.8 yards per play in a 49-0 rout.

"Our team is really resilient when it comes to adversity," offensive lineman Chance Warmack said. "We always want to triumph over adversity. That's what the main goal is, and we had a good week of practice this week. We knew coming in that we just had to play 'Bama ball."

Warmack and his teammates now might get to play 'Bama ball in Miami on Jan. 7 as they look for their second straight BCS championship. Alabama nearly made up all of its gap behind Kansas State in the UPS index in Week 12 - taking more than eight points off the Wildcats' margin and closing within 0.63. Now, the Tide is just a win over rival Auburn and an SEC championship game victory over No. 3 Georgia away from playing for their third BCS title in four years.

There, they could meet AP No. 1 Notre Dame, which also finds itself in control of its own destiny. The only postseason-eligible team that is still undefeated, the top-ranked Irish are just 60 minutes away from playing for their first BCS title - despite the fact they sit just 12th in the index. Penalized for relatively mediocre offensive and special teams play for the season, they were anything but average while racking up 584 yards in Saturday's 38-0 rout of Wake Forest.

The Irish certainly impressed Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe.

"I can't imagine anybody from what I saw today playing any better than Notre Dame," Grobe said.

Like Notre Dame, Mark Richt's Bulldogs find themselves in the national title picture but have not seen their rise up the AP poll match their standing in the UPS index. They're 20th this season, largely due to a special teams unit that allows 12.3 yards per punt return - the 10th-worst mark in the nation.

Even with Kansas State's loss, the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs needed another top team to go down to get back in the BCS title picture. That happened the same time the Wildcats were struggling, as previous AP No. 1 Oregon suffered a stunning 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford.

The Ducks, who were third in the UPS index coming into the week due to an often shaky defense and a barrage of penalties, fell to fifth as its offense failed to score more than 14 points in a conference game for the first time since 2008. Frontrunners in the national championship chase a week ago, Oregon will not even win the North Division of the Pac-12 if Stanford can beat UCLA this weekend.

"It's not going to be easy, but we understand that we have a couple of more games and whatever plays out plays out," quarterback Marcus Mariota said. "We just have to control what we can control."

It's hard to imagine any team from any conference in less control than Colorado. The Buffaloes remain last in the index after getting outgained 475-141 and turning it over five times in a 38-3 loss to Washington.

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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