5 For Friday: The Best Conference Championship Games



The hand-wringing about conference championship games and the Big 12’s current lack of one aren’t new. In the first year of the Bowl Championship Series, the folly of the league title game undercut the nation’s top-ranked team, Kansas State.

The undefeated Wildcats represented the North against Texas A&M in the 1998 Big 12 Championship, on a Saturday that had a March Madness-like quality. That day’s UCLA-Miami game at the Orange Bowl — a make-up of an early-season tilt postponed due to a hurricane — had national title implications.

Edgerrin James gutted UCLA for the Bruins’ first loss, which rolled out the red carpet for the Wildcats. K-State capitalized with a two-touchdown lead through three quarters. But like James in Miami, Sirr Parker took over in St. Louis.

The A&M running back’s play in the fourth quarter and overtime engineered an Aggie comeback, culminating in a 36-33, double-overtime win.

How might college football history have changed if Kansas State was the first BCS national champion? Perhaps Bill Snyder hoisting the Crystal Ball in Tempe in January 1999 would have had a ripple effect through college football that completely changes the current landscape.

Without a national championship, Phil Fulmer’s run from his post at Tennessee earlier. Lane Kiffin doesn’t land on Rocky Top, preventing the series of events that sent him to Alabama in 2014. USC goes in a different direction in 2010 after Pete Carroll’s departure, and the NCAA doesn’t come down quite as hard with its sanctions in the Reggie Bush investigation.

Conclusion: Tennessee and USC fans frustrated with their teams’ disappointing results in recent years can pin their blame on Sirr Parker.