Kansas State’s postseason picture is beginning to take shape.
A win at No. 6 Baylor on Saturday will likely propel No. 9 K-State just outside the playoff and into one of the bowls affiliated with the playoff selection committee, probably the Cotton or Fiesta.
A loss in the season finale will likely send the Wildcats to one of the top traditional bowls affiliated with the Big 12, probably the Alamo or Russell Athletic. All four possibilities are in play.
“We are fortunate at K-State and in the Big 12 that our bowl lineup is really strong,” K-State athletic director John Currie said. “They are all great games in great locations.”
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There is no favorite at the moment, but the top two bowls in the Big 12’s pecking order like K-State.
The Alamo Bowl, which now picks first in the Big 12, thinks K-State would be a good team to match up against a Pac-12 opponent on Jan. 2 in San Antonio.
Derrick Fox, President and CEO for the Alamo Bowl, said he is considering Baylor, K-State, Oklahoma and TCU from the Big 12 and Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Southern California and UCLA from the Pac-12. But several of those teams will head to the playoff or an access bowl. Realistically, his choices are the K-State-Baylor loser and Oklahoma from the Big 12, and Arizona State, UCLA and USC from the Pac-12.
“Coach (Bill) Snyder has done tremendous things there and they have always had a tremendous fan following,” Fox said of K-State. “We had them a number of years ago and they did a great job bringing fans to San Antonio under unusual circumstances. They are a team that is very much in consideration from our standpoint.”
K-State made its only Alamo Bowl appearance in 1998, falling to Purdue 37-34. That was the year the Wildcats won their first 11 games and lost to Texas A&M in double overtime of the Big 12 championship game. They emerged from the defeat ranked fourth, but plummeted down the bowl lineup.
Fox said he wants to welcome K-State back under more pleasant circumstances.
Of course, another victory could remove it from the equation. So could another loss.
Though K-State would appear to have the inside track to the Alamo Bowl with a 9-3 finish that includes a 7-2 Big 12 record, Oklahoma could also be in play. A victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday would improve the Sooners to 9-3. Though they would finish behind the Wildcats in the conference standings at 6-3 with a head-to-head loss, they would finish on a three-game winning streak.
Oklahoma has never played in the Alamo Bowl, and Fox is quick to point out the Sooners have four San Antonio natives on their roster. Perhaps timing could work in their favor.
After all, bowl games are not bound to specific selection criteria.
“We take a look at everything,” Fox said. “Every year is different. We will look at the schedule, we will look at the standings, we will look at how teams fared against each other, we will look at what will make the best matchup for our game. We will also look for storylines and ranked teams and styles of play and fan travel and what we think the television appeal of the game will be. There are a variety of things. It is not a true analytics. There is no one right answer. How the games finish up this last weekend is very impactful.”
The Russell Athletics Bowl also considers K-State and Oklahoma prime targets for its Dec. 29 game in Orlando, Fla., against an ACC foe.
Matt Repchak, senior director of marketing and media for the game, said the bowl is considering K-State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia from the Big 12 and Georgia Tech, Clemson, Louisville and Duke from the ACC. It has second choice in the Big 12.
Should K-State finish with nine victories, Repchak thinks the process could be as simple as waiting for the Alamo Bowl to choose between K-State and Oklahoma, and then choosing the other.
“Our decision is almost made for us in that scenario,” he said.
Things will be more complicated if K-State gets to 10 victories, especially if TCU advances to the playoff and Baylor makes selection-committee bowl. But if things play out the right way, K-State would be a slam-dunk choice.
Not only have the Wildcats never played in the Russell Athletic Bowl, they have never ventured to Florida for a bowl game.
“It is always good to get a fan base that hasn’t been here before,” Repchak said. “Part of our whole mission with the bowl game is to bring new visitors in from out of town, because it boosts our local economy. That is always really appealing to us.”
K-State bowl scenarios
Bowls that seemingly could end up with Kansas State as one of their teams
Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. in Orlando, Fla. (TBD)
Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 31, 4 p.m. in Glendale, Ariz. (ESPN)
Cotton Bowl, Jan. 1, 11:30 a.m. in Arlington, Texas (ESPN)
Alamo Bowl, Jan. 2, 5:45 p.m. in San Antonio (ESPN)