Kansas State defeated Oklahoma State 45-40 on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Instead of sharing some lingering thoughts from the game like usual let’s take a look forward at some of K-State’s bowl options now that the Wildcats (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) are eligible for the postseason.
If you are still in the mood to look back, you can always read my game story on Byron Pringle and the unexpected win, my report card from Stillwater and my day-after post on Skylar Thompson.
Kansas State is going bowling for the eighth straight year. Where might it end up?
The Wildcats are headed to another bowl game, but unlike previous years its postseason destination remains a guessing game as the regular-season finale approaches.
The two most probable landing spots appear to be the Cactus Bowl or Heart of Dallas Bowl, but a win over Iowa State combined with the right outcomes elsewhere could move K-State up the Big 12’s bowl pecking order, which goes: Alamo, Camping World, Texas, Liberty, Cactus, Heart of Dallas.
Several factors are at play.
For starters, how many teams will the Big 12 place in the playoff and/or New Year’s Day bowls? At the moment, it seems like Oklahoma is headed for the playoff and the rest of the league will be shutout of the major bowls. But if TCU were to upset OU in the conference championship game and join the Sooners in the playoff-affiliated bowls, then everyone would move up a spot.
The Big 12 usually would place a team in the Sugar Bowl in addition to a playoff appearance, but that game will host a playoff semifinal this year. So the conference doesn’t have an automatic tie into any major bowl. Can a Big 12 team make the cut with three losses?
Also, will K-State beat Iowa State on Saturday? At 6-6, the Wildcats’ bowl options will be limited. At 7-5, they could end up with the same record as Iowa State, Texas and West Virginia. It’s hard to say which team each bowl would prefer in that scenario, opening the door for bigger and better options.
Here is a rundown of the possibilities:
When: Dec. 26, 8 p.m.
Where: Phoenix (Chase Field)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. Pac-12
K-State fans have always traveled well to Phoenix, including four years ago when Buffalo Wild Wings sponsored this bowl and it was played in a football stadium. They might get another trip to the desert next month. This is shaping up as the Wildcats’ favored destination with bowl projectors (Sports Illustrated, ESPN and SB Nation) and it’s easy to see why, especially if K-State beats Iowa State.
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL
When: Dec. 26, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Dallas (Cotton Bowl Stadium)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. Big Ten
It’s hard to see K-State slipping here if it wins its final game, but the Wildcats could be Dallas bound at 6-6 if the Big 12 places just one team in the playoff and/or the New Year’s Six bowls. K-State has never played in this bowl, though it has played bowl games in this stadium. (Jerry Palm of CBS Sports projects K-State here).
When: Dec. 30, 11:30 a.m.
Where: Memphis (Liberty Bowl)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. SEC
This becomes a potential landing spot if K-State beats Iowa State and Texas stumbles against Texas Tech. Or if TCU makes a NY6 bowl. The Wildcats would have finished the season with two big wins and might have enough momentum to make themselves an attractive choice for the folks in Memphis. Then again, K-State played here two years ago and got blown out by Arkansas. Few raved about the experience. It’s hard to see fans getting too pumped about a return trip. The Liberty Bowl could always look elsewhere, regardless of records. It’s worth mentioning the Longhorns have never played in this bowl.
When: Dec. 27, 8 p.m.
Where: Houston (NRG Stadium)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. SEC
Don’t count on another Texas Bowl invite, considering the Wildcats were in Houston last season for their win over Texas A&M. Iowa State, Texas and West Virginia will all have similar records and probably get selected over K-State. But you can’t rule out the possibility if K-State finishes 7-5.
CAMPING WORLD BOWL
When: Dec. 28, 4:15 p.m.
Where: Orlando, Fla. (Camping World Stadium)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. ACC or Notre Dame
Fun fact: K-State has never played a bowl game in Florida. Could it happen this year? The Wildcats will need to beat the Cyclones and hope for two Big 12 teams to make the big-boy bowls to have any shot.
Though unlikely, there is a scenario in which the Big 12 doesn’t have enough bowl tie-ins to account for its bowl-eligible teams and K-State gets shipped to a mystery destination. Here’s how it could happen: If Texas Tech beats Texas this week, the conference will have eight bowl teams. If only Oklahoma makes a major bowl that means one of those eight teams will have to look outside the Big 12’s normal bowls for a postseason home. If Iowa State beats K-State and Texas Tech beats Texas, the Heart of Dallas Bowl would have to choose between the Wildcats and Red Raiders. Both teams would be 6-6. K-State won at Texas Tech this year, but Texas Tech is an in-state school.