Bill Snyder says it was "a moment of weakness" that caused him to schedule USC in a nonconference game. On the road. In the opener.
That appears to be the only explanation for the Kansas State coach to veer from a nonconference philosophy that previously has gone by the acronym AWCBBF Anyone We Can Beat By Fifty.
Under Snyder, previous nonconference "foes" have been Northern Illinois, Indiana State, Akron and Northeast Louisiana. All were scheduled long after Kansas State had risen to prominence.
The weak nonconference schedule has been credited with getting Kansas State's program into top-10 territory, and for keeping the Wildcats from going further. Detractors say Kansas State is a fraud, that playing all those patsies makes Kansas State appear better than it is. They say it keeps Kansas State from being prepared for real competition in conference play.
It's also been a reason why Kansas State, despite four consecutive 11-win seasons, has been left out of the BCS in recent years. Despite all those wins and a large and loyal fan base, the only BCS-level bowl the Wildcats have played in was the 1997 Fiesta Bowl.
The ultimate insult was in 1998 when an unbeaten, second-ranked Kansas State was upset by Texas A&M; in the Big 12 championship game, in two overtimes. The Wildcats plummeted out of the BCS and into the Alamo Bowl.
That season, Kansas State's nonconference games were 66-0 over Indiana State, 73-7 over Northern Illinois and 62-7 over Northeast Louisiana.
Snyder still staunchly defends his scheduling philosophy. With so many good teams in the Big 12, he reasons, why play somebody tough in a nonconference game?
"The approach that we have taken for our program, and you see more people going that way, is that it makes sense to try to build, week in and week out, into your conference schedule," Snyder said. "This (USC game) is just one of the exceptions to the rule."
Yet Snyder says Saturday's visit to Troy, instead of hosting Troy State, has nothing to do with impressing pollsters.
Although the BCS has more formulas than a chemistry textbook, it's still driven by the writers' and coaches' polls, and after the championship game it comes down to putting together attractive TV matchups.
Sure, Snyder's correct in that if Kansas State were to win the Big 12 championship game, the BCS trips would be automatic. The problem is when K-State falls just short but still has a BCS-worthy team.
With an athletic budget that's still dwarfed by the likes of Texas and Nebraska, the difference between $2.1 million from the Cotton Bowl and $6 million from a BCS bowl is significant.
The guess here is that money was as much a deciding factor in Kansas State scheduling USC as it was Snyder's "moment of weakness."
If the Wildcats win Saturday and go on to play in a BCS bowl, it could be a moment of brilliance.
"There's two sides of the coin," Snyder said. "If you win, they say 'Why don't you do that all the time?' If you lose, then somebody's going to say, 'Why the devil did you do it?'. . .
At midnight Saturday we'll have all the answers.