When Oklahoma qualified Sunday for the College Football Playoff, everything fell neatly into place for Kansas State fans hoping for a trip to San Antonio and the Alamo Bowl.
So just how and why did the Wildcats end up matched against Navy on New Year's Eve in the Liberty Bowl, which had the last pick among the Big 12's six eligible teams?
Part of it is the Big 12, which unlike some other conferences, takes a hands-off approach when it comes to its bowl partners. In fact, K-State athletic director Gene Taylor expressed no real reservations about the policy when asked Sunday night during a Liberty Bowl media conference call.
"You have so many teams that were 5-4 in the conference and we all kind of beat each other," he said. "So I don't know how much different you could do.
"Obviously you want the bowls to be able to get matchups that maybe they haven't had in a while, and when you put some really tough parameters (in place), sometimes it limits that. We can talk about it, but I'm certainly not making it a top priority."
Baylor, the Big 12 runner-up, claimed the league's New Year's Six slot in the Sugar Bowl, leaving the four teams that tied for third — K-State, Oklahoma State, Texas and Iowa State — to gobble up the next four spots in the pecking order. The Alamo Bowl had first choice, and the Wildcats thought they had a strong case after handing Oklahoma its only loss and also going 8-4 to tie Oklahoma State for best overall record among the third-place four.
Trouble was, the eyes of the San Antonio were on Texas. With a lopsided loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship, Utah dropped out of the New Year's Six picture and into the Alamo, leading bowl officials to choose the Longhorns in what most likely amounted to a television ratings grab.
Had the Pac-12 representative been Southern California, as many had predicted, then K-State might have been a more acceptable option.
The Camping World Bowl, which made no secret of its desire for a Notre Dame-Texas matchup, instead settled for Iowa State, in part because of the Cyclone fans' reputation as enthusiastic bowl travelers. K-State, which also historically has been known for turning its fan base out in droves for the holidays, beat the Cyclones to close out the regular season.
The Texas Bowl was next and chose Oklahoma State to face Texas A&M in Houston. The Cowboys did own a head-to-head victory over K-State.
So that left K-State with Memphis and the Liberty Bowl for the second time in four years. But it also produced perhaps the most compelling matchup of the four against No. 21-ranked Navy (9-2), which mirrors the Wildcats in many respects.
Which is one reason Taylor was not shocked to see where the Wildcats landed.
"It all kind of depends on the matchups, really," he said. "We talked to a lot of bowls.
"The AutoZone Liberty Bowl folks have been with us a lot, so I knew they were highly interested in us as the team. They were interested in us a couple of years ago when we ended up going to the (Cactus) Bowl, so I'm not surprised that we're there."
Navy, which still has a regular-season game remaining this Saturday against Army, leads the nation in rushing and ranks in the top 20 in time of possession. K-State also favors a strong ground game and ranks third nationally in possession time, which suggests that it could be a very fast game.
"We could have gone a lot of other places, but we're excited about Memphis, there's no question about it," Taylor said.