MANHATTAN — The end of football's regular season means it's time for Kansas State to woo bowl executives.
With four days remaining before most bowl games make their selections, K-State's ability to market itself will be important. Its postseason destination all comes down to how it stacks up against Texas Tech and Baylor in a beauty contest.
All three teams finished the year with 7-5 records, and are assured of playing in a bowl with Big 12 ties. But which one?
The Texas Bowl (5 p.m. Dec. 29), which picks sixth in the conference bowl order, is considering all three. So is the Pinstripe Bowl (2:30 p.m. Dec. 30), which will host its inaugural game in New York's Yankee Stadium and picks seventh. The new TicketCity Bowl (11 a.m. Jan. 1), in Dallas, picks eighth and gets whatever team remains.
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They could go in any order.
"With those three," said Texas Bowl representative Zac Emmons, "I don't think we can make a bad decision."
It will be an interesting debate. Of the trio, Baylor finished with the best conference record at 4-4, owns a head-to-head victory over K-State and can sell a fan base that is eager to attend its first bowl game since 1994.
Texas Tech and K-State both went 3-5 in Big 12 play, but the Red Raiders defeated Baylor when they met in October. K-State can point to its track record of bringing loads of fans to bowl games.
But with bowl games, there is no standard tie-breaker.
"We're looking at all three very closely," said Emmons, adding the Texas Bowl will likely match a Big 12 team against Northwestern or Illinois. "We're talking to our partners at ESPN, trying to find out what the best fit would be.
"You try to look at the big picture and not any one factor. How well are they going to travel, ticket sales, their marketability and how much the casual fan tuning into ESPN may be interested in them are all important."
Being in Houston, it's natural to assume the Texas Bowl will favor a nearby team from within the Lone Star state, but Emmons has said the Texas Bowl was impressed by the crowd K-State attracted to Reliant Stadium when it played Rutgers in 2006.
Should two Big 12 teams qualify for BCS bowls, the Holiday Bowl could also come into play. But that is highly unlikely now that Stanford and TCU have moved into the top four of the BCS standings and all but locked up at-large bids to BCS bowls.
If the Texas Bowl passes on K-State, that would leave the Pinstripe Bowl to choose between the Wildcats and the remaining team from the Big 12 South.
Pinstripe Bowl executive director Mark Holtzman offered no predictions on who will be invited to New York, but said K-State is an attractive option to play a Big East opponent.
"We're very interested in Kansas State and they are interested in us," Holtzman said. "Kansas State is right on our radar."
Perhaps more so now than in previous weeks. Holtzman said he has been in contact with school administrators throughout the week, and noticed a recent spike in interest from K-State supporters after the Wildcats defeated North Texas on Saturday.
He said there is a great deal of "eager anticipation" between both sides.
"I hear nothing but good things," Holtzman said. "They have a fan base that is champing at the bit to come up here and experience everything that New York has to offer."