Your Kansas State Wildcats football team is bowl bound for the 2016 football season, and 7th year in a row. And while that was assured at least two weeks ago, we now have a bit clearer picture of where the Cats, and by extension the K-State fan-base, might be traveling in late December.* So lets take a look at those options, and what will need to happen for the Cats to get there.
These will be the most likely scenarios for the Cats, based on current projections holding out (like a 10-2 Big 12 Champion not being selected for the College Football Playoff). For clarity, I will also break down the other bowls and their most likely participant (based on current standings), and in the order of selection.
Also a friendly reminder: after the New Year’s contract bowl, the Big 12 bowl partners are not required to select any team based on final Big 12 standings and are only regulated by picking in a certain order. The Alamo could, theoretically, take West Virginia or even an 8-4 K-State team over the loser of Bedlam, but that wouldn’t make for a very exciting game. After all these guys want to sell tickets and get TV dollars to pay for the game, so they want the best possible match-up.
*Yes, because we are mathematically eliminated from going to a New Year’s Day game.
(All times are CST)
Allstate Sugar Bowl - Jan. 2, 2017, 7:30 p.m., New Orleans, Big 12 vs SEC
Oklahoma Sooners: Even at 10-2 and conference champs, the Sooners are not likely to make a CFP spot and since the Sugar is not a “semifinal” game this year, the Big 12 auto-bid goes to the Sugar Bowl (this will be the second year of the new deal with the Big 12 and the Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma State played the game last year as OU went to the CFP). OU is 5-2 in the Sugar Bowl, with their last trip being a surprise 45-31 win over Alabama in 2013.
Valero Alamo Bowl - Dec. 29, 2016, 8 p.m., San Antonio, Big 12 vs. Pac-12
Oklahoma State Cowboys: Bedlam is still anyone’s game, but the loser will go to the Alamo Bowl regardless. Oklahoma State is 1-2 in its three trips to San Antonio, but won it’s last appearance, in 2010, over Arizona.
Russell Athletic Bowl - Dec. 28, 2016, 4:30 p.m., Orlando, Big 12 vs. ACC
West Virginia Mountaineers: The Mountaineers can still finish the season at 10-2, but with losses to both Oklahoma schools, they will finish third in the league regardless on any action above or below them this weekend. The Russell Athletic bowl would be nuts not to take West Virginia, as it is the Big 12 bowl game that is likely to draw the most Mountaineer fans.
***Skipping two games on purpose***
Cactus Bowl - Dec. 27, 2016, 9:15 p.m., Phoenix, Big 12 vs. Pac-12
Baylor Bears: This is what happens when you start 6-0, but then lose your next 6. While a regular-season-ending loss in Morgantown isn’t a given, it has a high probability. Even with a win, the Bears would still be behind K-State and TCU in the rankings. And with the toxic atmosphere in Waco right now, the Cactus Bowl is going to feel more stuck with Baylor than glad the Bears fell to them.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - Dec. 23, 2016, 3:30 p.m., Fort Worth, Big 12 vs. Navy/AAC
None: The Big 12 does not have enough qualifying teams to fill out its contracts this year. There is still a slim chance that Texas or Texas Tech could squeak in on APR scores, but it’s more likely that Army will get tapped to fill the Big 12 spot since they are bowl eligible and Navy will have the opportunity to go to a higher-ranked game.
The Games The Cats Can Realistically Get
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl - Dec. 28, 2016, 8 p.m., Houston, Big 12 vs. SEC
AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Dec. 30, 2016, 11 a.m., Memphis, Big 12 vs. SEC
The choice between these two games boils down to what happens in Ft. Worth this weekend.
A K-State win would slot the Cats in 4th place in the final Big 12 standings, and with a three game win streak and a strong history of bowl game travel would be a lock to be selected for the Texas Bowl. Wildcat fans traveled decently well to K-State’s only visit to then-Reliant Stadium (now NRG Stadium), the inaugural Texas Bowl in 2006, a game the Ron Prince-led Cats lost to Rutgers 37-10. That game featured multiple guys who would go on to play in the NFL, including Ray Rice and Kenny Britt (Rutgers), and Jordy Nelson, Josh Freeman, Yamon Figurs, and Reggie Walker (K-State).
A TCU win would make the selection process more difficult for the Texas Bowl committee. K-State and TCU would hold identical 7-5 records, and TCU would be in 4th place thanks to the head-to-head over K-State. TCU on it’s only trip to the Texas Bowl, in 2007, and as the in-state team would present a serious lure for the Texas Bowl committee. A 7-5 K-State team would still likely draw 25k-30k fans to Houston for a game the Cats haven’t been to in a decade, but being in-state, TCU could claim an easier path for their fans to arrive. Either way, at 7-5 for both teams it’s a toss-up, but if I had to pick, a 7-5 TCU team goes to the Texas Bowl over a 7-5 K-State team.
Either way, the Liberty Bowl is happy. While Cat fans are less likely to come out in the number they did last year, it’s still an easy trip for a good chunk of the K-State fan-base. Many who declined to go last year may go this year, at K-State would still likely drop in 20,000 fans to Memphis. And even at 6-6, the chance to have a Texas team in your bowl game would help the Liberty Bowl’s TV ratings, and TCU fans may be willing to go party down in Memphis and try to claim a BBQ superiority.
There is a chance, however slim, that an 8-4 K-State team could jump a 9-3 West Virginia team for the Russell Athletic Bowl, but I just don’t see that happening.
K-State fans should hope to return to Houston after a decade absence, but don’t be disappointed if we have to go back to Memphis for another
big party year.