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Snubbed by BCS, Kansas State heads to Cotton Bowl

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, at 10:41 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, at 1:22 p.m.

Photos

Cotton Bowl: Kansas State vs. Arkansas

When: 7 p.m., Jan. 6

Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Records: KSU 10-2, Ark 10-2

TV: KSAS, Ch. 4

Tickets: K-State says it has already sold its allotment for the game and encourages fans to check the Cotton Bowl website ticket exchange.

MANHATTAN — Though some Kansas State football fans went to bed Sunday night disappointed the Wildcats missed out on an at-large bid to a BCS bowl game, Cotton Bowl chairman Tommy Bain is confident they will wake up today happy about their postseason destination.

K-State, which ended the regular season 10-2 and ranked eighth in the BCS standings, is headed to the Cotton Bowl to take on Arkansas, which finished the year with an identical record and a No. 6 BCS ranking. They will play on Jan. 6 at state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

On paper, it’s the top bowl game the Big 12 has to offer outside of the BCS. But this year the experience could be special.

“We consider ourselves just like a BCS bowl,” Bain said. “This year we will have No. 6 vs. No. 8. That’s the third best matchup outside of the national

championship game . . . I think fans are going to appreciate probably the finest stadium in the world. It will be a championship-type atmosphere. I think everyone will really enjoy it.”

A sellout crowd is predicted, and K-State has already done its part to help. Athletic director John Currie said the university sold its entire ticket allotment of 12,500 through pre-sale orders on Wednesday. Fans still looking for tickets are encouraged to visit the Cotton Bowl’s website and purchase them through the game’s official ticket exchange.

The Wildcats will make their first trip to the Cotton Bowl since 2001, when they defeated Tennessee 35-21. They also played there in 1997, losing 19-15 to BYU.

Both those games were played on New Year’s Day at the actual Cotton Bowl Stadium, and K-State fans turned out in big numbers to watch. The Dallas area is one of K-State’s largest alumni bases. Wildcats coach Bill Snyder fondly remembers being greeted by 55,000 supporters a decade ago as much as the bowl victory.

“That was very impressive for me and for all K-Staters,” Snyder said, “and it was very impressive for the Cotton Bowl.”

Coming into the season, when K-State was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 standings, fans would have done black flips over a trip to the Cotton Bowl. But their reaction was much more subdued Sunday night.

After beating Iowa State on Saturday, the Wildcats looked like strong contenders for a spot in the Sugar Bowl. But Michigan and Virginia Tech, two

teams ranked lower than K-State in the final BCS standings, were selected instead.

Though Snyder said he was thrilled to be headed to the Cotton Bowl, he also voiced frustration over how the BCS bowls chose teams.

“We’re in it, so there’s not a whole lot I can do to change it,” Snyder said. “It’s very distinct how the No. 1 and No. 2 teams are placed, and yet it doesn’t seem to follow suit with how No. 3 and No. 4 and No. 5 and No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 are placed. If there is something to be adjusted with the system, I would suggest it be in that area.”

Currie was also asked about missing out on the BCS, but he directed all of his focus on the Cotton Bowl. After fighting through a blizzard to reach the Pinstripe Bowl last year, he thinks Texas will sound good to fans.

“The Cotton Bowl experience is the highest level of experience,” Currie said. “. . . We are really looking forward to the opportunity.”

So are K-State’s football players.

“The opportunity to play in one of the top stadiums in the world and the best bowls in the country is a great reward for our hard work this season,” said senior safety Tysyn Hartman in a statement.

The game should be a good one. The Razorbacks finished third in the SEC West division, and played in the Sugar Bowl last year. Arkansas’ two losses came to Alabama and LSU — the two teams that will play for the BCS title.

Snyder said he expects K-State to be a big underdog in the game. But he also expects the Wildcats to be ready for the challenge.

“Kansas State vs. Arkansas is a blockbuster matchup for us,” Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker said. “This is exciting. Few bowls have a matchup

that is as intriguing as our game. It’s going to be a special night at Cowboys Stadium when the Hogs and Wildcats get together.”

Check Kellis Robinett’s K-State blog at blogs.kansas.com/kstated. Reach him at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com.

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