The season’s not over yet. After staying home last year, the Kansas State Wildcats are headed back to a bowl game to finish the 2019 season. As announced this afternoon, the Wildcats 8-4 season and 3rd-place Big 12 finish in Chris Klieman’s first season in Manhattan have secured a bid to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, TN to face off against the Navy Midshipmen on December 31st, 2019.
The Wildcats will return to Memphis for just their second-ever trip to the Liberty Bowl. The last time in Memphis, the 2015 version of the Wildcats were coming off a 6-6 regular season and faced off against the Arkansas Razorbacks in a game that the Razorbacks won 45-23. Things have definitely changed in Manhattan since that outing, and in the bowl pecking order, as the Liberty Bowl has moved up several spots in the Big 12’s bowl selection order since the Wildcats last visited.
Navy has spent most of the season ranked, though hanging out near the bottom of the Top 25. While the Midshipmen still have the annual Army-Navy Game left on the schedule, they will finish with no-worse than 9 wins and a second place finish in the AAC West division, with their sole loss in conference play to AAC champion (and NY6 bowl participant) Memphis. The Midshipmen are coached by Ken Niumatalolo, who has been the head coach in Annapolis for over a decade. It will be an interesting test for the Wildcats, as Navy is a run-heavy team, that has amassed nearly four times as many rushing yards as passing yards this season (currently 4223 rushing to 1139 passing).
It’s not the destination Wildcat fans were hoping for, but it should give Chris Klieman’s crew a chance for a 9th win and a boost into the 2020 season. Hopefully Wildcat fans aren’t too heartbroken, and will travel well (as Wildcat fans always do, even though bowl committees seem to forget it every year), because it would be very easy to paint Memphis purple once again.