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SLATE: Walking in Memphis

Cats return to the Liberty Bowl amidst confusion and rancor.

This is Graceland, where a fat dude died on a toilet.
This is Graceland, where a fat dude died on a toilet.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

There’s only one topic this morning: as reported by literally everyone, but most importantly by your pal JT Van Gilder, Kansas State is headed to Memphis to face Navy in the 2019 Liberty Bowl. The early line has K-State posted as a 1-point favorite, with Vegas expecting a 26-25 win based on the over.

That destination came as a surprise and a shock to most Wildcat fans, but — as Kellis Robinett reports in the Eagle — the real blame lies at the feet of the College Football Playoff committee. Heading into the weekend, the Alamo Bowl folks assumed that Utah was headed to a New Year’s Six bowl, and had their sights set on a K-State/USC matchup. But when Utah got left out and forced into the Alamo, things suddenly changed.

You can take this as to mean K-State/USC would have been a very attractive matchup, whereas K-State/Utah wouldn’t have been. It’s probably true. The Wildcats have a history, albeit a brief one, with the Trojans, and USC would have fulfilled the desire to have a blueblood name on the game program. Instead, the San Antonians had to grab a different blueblood name; hence Texas.

That left the Camping World Bowl without their preferred pick, but instead of grabbing K-State they went with Iowa State. While it’s true that both Farmageddon enemies have never played a bowl game in Florida, and that both travel very well, it’s likely that Iowa State will travel better to this specific game. Why? Because it’s the best combination of bowl and assignment in Cyclone history.

Iowa State did play in the Alamo last year, which is a better bowl. But that’s the only bowl they’ve ever been to with a higher profile than Orlando. (The Cyclones did play in a Peach Bowl once, but it was in the 1970s. To put this in perspective, the first time a top-ten team ever played in the Peach Bowl was in January 2004 when #7 Tennessee ended up there — amusingly for us, because they were pushed out of a BCS bowl as a result of K-State’s win over Oklahoma.)

Meanwhile, as much as K-State would have relished their first trip to a Florida bowl, we’re also old hats at this. It’s likely we’d have traveled well, but not absolutely swarmed the city. So it’s understandable that the Camping World Bowl folks decided to go with a hungry and very drunk fanbase.

Then again, maybe Notre Dame was just too scared to play K-State.

That leaves us with the Texas Bowl, which passed over the Wildcats to invite Oklahoma State. Again, it’s a first-time destination, as the Cowboys have yet to visit Houston in December. Besides, they won the head-to-head matchup, so we can’t complain too much; and really, did anyone want another bowl game against Texas A&M?

And so, K-State ends up in the Liberty Bowl. Via Ryan Black at the Mercury, both Gene Taylor and Chris Klieman have thoughts on the destination and the matchup. For Taylor, it’s a reunion; he was an administrator at Annapolis early in the century. For Klieman, it’s a challenge as K-State’s disastrous run defense will have to contend with the nation’s top rushing attack.

If you’re looking for hope, there’s always Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, whose reaction on hearing who the Middies would be facing was “Oh, crap.” Then again, those were the exact words Scottie Hazelton used at Vanier, so your mileage may vary.