By Chris Dufresne Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Saturday is the reason they play the regular season all the way to the end.
Just when you think you know everything, you know nothing.
Kansas State was No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings but now it’s not.
Oregon was No. 2 but now it’s not.
Notre Dame was No. 3 in the BCS but will now be … No. 1.
And the Southeastern Conference, stunned by top-ranked Alabama’s loss last week to Texas A&M, is now back in BCS business.
The take-away question after Saturday’s frenzied flurry of action is, “OK, now what?”
Well, here’s what: Out of nowhere, and by nowhere we mean Waco, Texas, the Baylor Bears shocked Kansas State, 52-24.
Stanford went to Oregon and stymied the nation’s No. 1 offense, pulling out a 17-14 overtime victory.
Sometimes this is how a national title dream dies. Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado’s field-goal attempt in overtime clanked off the left upright. Stanford took possession but fumbled, the ball jumping away from two Oregon players into the arms of one from Stanford.
Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson, who has been living with last year’s Fiesta Bowl miss for almost a year, stepped up and kicked the game-winning 37-yard field goal.
The only people cheering harder than those in Palo Alto were fans in the SEC, who got the two-loss combination they needed to start bragging again.
For the short, incredible term, Notre Dame is 11-0 and the only undefeated team left that can still play for this year’s title.
If USC defeats Notre Dame next week, though, this year’s BCS race will be a cage-match battle of one-loss teams.
It’s possible now that two SEC teams could play again for a title, a year after two SEC teams played last year.
It’s also possible players crying on Saturday could be back in contention before you know it.
You just never know, right?
Kansas State entered the weekend 10-0 and No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history.
The Wildcats stood two wins from advancing to their first national title game.
You might have expected a tough game next week against Texas, but Saturday night in Waco against Baylor?
That was simply wacko.
Baylor has a potent offense, ranking second nationally, but also had the worst defense in the country — 120th out of 120 schools. The Bears had a 4-5 record and were only 1-5 in Big 12 play.
What happened was absolutely preposterous — and how can you not at least acknowledge the Sports Illustrated jinx?
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein graced this week’s cover with the teaser headline: “27 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BEST PLAYER ON THE NATION’S BEST TEAM.”
Best player? Best team?
Klein wears jersey No. 7, but this time it wasn’t lucky.
Saturday’s loss will not match the agony of 1998, when Kansas State entered the fourth quarter of the Big 12 title game with a double-digit lead over Texas A&M.
UCLA’s defeat at Miami earlier in the day meant a Kansas State win would send the Wildcats to the first BCS title game.
Texas A&M, though, rallied to beat Kansas State in St. Louis. Wildcats Coach Bill Snyder, after the game, compared the loss to a death in the family.
Saturday’s loss, 14 years later, was more shocking than agonizing.
Baylor simply dominated a game it had no business winning — but did.
Notre Dame’s national case had been hurt by suspect wins over inferior competition — namely a three-point win over Purdue and a triple-overtime victory against Pittsburgh.
The Irish, though, didn’t need to explain anything after Saturday’s emphatic 38-0 win over Wake Forest. They capped a perfect home season and head to Los Angeles next week to face a USC team reeling after its 38-28 loss to UCLA.
Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly continued to make his case for his team, at the time not knowing the outcome of Saturday night’s games.
He was the only voter in last week’s USA Today coaches’ poll to cast a first-place vote for the Irish. Now he’ll be one of many.
“I voted them No. 1 for a reason, because I think they’re the best team in the country,” Kelly said after Saturday’s win. “And I think they played like that tonight.”
The SEC watched the action excitedly as seven of its teams completed an exhibition day against lower-division FCS schools.
Alabama toyed with Western Carolina, Florida took care of Jacksonville State, Texas A&M manhandled Sam Houston State, Kentucky rolled over Samford and Auburn warmed up for the Iron Bowl against Alabama next week with an easy win over Alabama A&M.
South Carolina didn’t have it as easy, struggling at home against Wofford before winning. Georgia started slowly but pulled away from Georgia Southern.
The SEC took some credibility hits this week.
“That was an embarrassing slate today,” ABC announcer Brent Musburger said of the SEC’s Saturday schedule.
But none of that mattered.
For the first time in a long time, the SEC needed help if it wanted to win its seventh straight BCS title.
It got all the help it needed but, if you can believe it, there are still two weeks left.