Kansas State University

Kansas State on verge of another bowl, but difficult schedule looms

One more victory is all the Kansas State football team needs to qualify for a bowl, but that’s not how the Wildcats are approaching their final three games.

“I am still a firm believer that if we play to our capability we can beat anyone on our schedule,” sophomore receiver Dalton Schoen said. “That goes back to playing to our capability and playing a complete game, all four quarters, all three phases of the game. That’s something we haven’t really done this season, but if we can do that I think we can do something pretty special and we can beat whoever we have got in front of us.”

Something “pretty special” could even include a trip to the Big 12 championship game.

It’s a long shot, but K-State (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) remains in contention. If the Wildcats win their remaining games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Iowa State, they can reach Arlington, Texas if the following three things also happen:

▪ TCU wins out.

▪ West Virginia downs Oklahoma and Texas.

▪ Iowa State beats Oklahoma State and Baylor.

That would leave TCU on top of the standings at 8-1 and a logjam of four teams at 6-3, with K-State holding the tiebreaker for second-place.

“Why not?” senior defensive back Brogan Barry said. “That would be crazy, but I think we just have to take things one day at a time in practice and see if crazy things can happen.”

K-State players are understandably confident coming off recent victories over Kansas and Texas Tech. The Wildcats rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter to defeat the Red Raiders on the road, putting themselves in good position to qualify for their eighth straight bowl.

College football statistician Bill Connelly gives K-State a 75.9 percent chance of finishing with at least six wins. That’s good news.

But that doesn’t assure the Wildcats of anything. Here’s the bad news: they will have to beat a ranked team to become bowl eligible. K-State is 0-2 against ranked teams this season.

Few teams have a more difficult closing schedule than No. 23 West Virginia, at No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 24 Iowa State.

“It’s just the nature of the beast in the Big 12,” Barry said. “The way I look at it, it’s kind of like playing 21 and you’re sitting 16 up and the dealer has a 10 up. You’ve just got to go down fighting no matter what. I know this team isn’t going to stop fighting. We’re going to give it our all every single play and never give up, as we showed in the Texas Tech game. We’re going to keep fighting until that last whistle blows come the Iowa State game.”

K-State coach Bill Snyder likes that attitude. He says the Wildcats have practiced well since a rocky 3-4 start, and appear motivated to close strong.

Things haven’t gone as predicted this season, but team morale is high.

“The spirit is there,” Snyder said. “What I’m hoping for is that we have a good deal of focus and that they don’t lose sight of that. That’s the most significant thing for me.”

A bowl trip would be nice. Staying alive in the Big 12 championship race would be nicer.

Much is at stake against a difficult schedule.

“You look around and see all of the banners and realize that’s something you want to be a part of,” Barry said. “You don’t want to be the class that didn’t make a bowl. These last three weeks are going to have intense focus and we’re going to try to win as many as possible.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett