Kansas State defeated Iowa State 20-19 on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
Some lingering thoughts from the game, and a look at where the Wildcats might end up this bowl season:
K-State’s bowl stock is on the rise
With 13 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the regular-season finale against the Cyclones, the Wildcats appeared destined for either the Heart of Dallas Bowl or a mystery postseason destination with no natural tie to the Big 12. Things changed dramatically after Skylar Thompson erased a 12-point deficit and led K-State on a come-from-behind victory with a touchdown pass to Isaiah Zuber on the final play.
Now, K-State could find itself in a more desirable bowl. At 7-5 and 5-4 in the Big 12, the Wildcats finished tied for fourth in the conference standings along with Iowa State, Texas and West Virginia. The Wildcats have won two straight and four of five, while those other three teams are all coming off losses. Momentum is always a factor with bowls when it comes time to make their selections. That puts the following bowls in play: Camping World, Texas, Cactus.
Just like last week, let’s break down the most likely possibilities.
When: Dec. 30, 11:30 a.m.
Where: Memphis (Liberty Bowl)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. SEC
As of this moment, the Liberty Bowl feels like K-State’s most probable landing spot. The bowl’s associate executive director, Harold Graeter, was in Manhattan on Saturday selling everyone in the press box on another trip to Memphis. When the game was over, he attended Bill Snyder’s press conference and snapped a picture with actor Eric Stonestreet. With Missouri as a possible opponent from the SEC, this could be a fun game. Then again, K-State played here two years ago and it’s not like fans raved about the experience. A blowout loss to Arkansas didn’t help. But Iowa State and West Virginia also made recent postseason trips to Memphis. And Texas (6-6) ended the regular season with a thud. The Wildcats might be the most attractive option.
When: Dec. 27, 8 p.m.
Where: Houston (NRG Stadium)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. SEC
I have my doubts the Texas Bowl will invite K-State back for a repeat visit, but the Wildcats had a good trip to Houston last year and beat Texas A&M. Crazier things have happened. The Texas Bowl selects fourth in the Big 12 bowl order, and the Wildcats finished fourth in the Big 12 standings. They are on a winning streak, and they could be selected. Here’s guessing the Texas Bowl would rather have Iowa State, Texas or West Virginia, but K-State is definitely in the mix.
When: Dec. 26, 8 p.m.
Where: Phoenix (Chase Field)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. Pac-12
If the Texas Bowl and Liberty Bowl pass on K-State, this is probably where the Wildcats will land. K-State hasn’t been to Phoenix for a bowl since 2013.
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL
When: Dec. 26, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Dallas (Cotton Bowl Stadium)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. Big Ten
It’s hard to see K-State slipping here after it ended the regular season with wins over Oklahoma State and Iowa State. This bowl selects seventh, and the Wildcats will probably be snatched up before the Heart of Dallas Bowl makes its selection. But it remains a possibility.
CAMPING WORLD BOWL
When: Dec. 28, 4:15 p.m.
Where: Orlando, Fla. (Camping World Stadium)
Matchup: Big 12 vs. ACC or Notre Dame
If TCU sneaks into one of the playoff-affiliated bowls, every team in the Big 12 gets a bowl bump. That would bring the Camping World Bowl into play. Most bowl projections have Notre Dame vs. Iowa State headed here under that scenario, but K-State has never played a bowl game in Florida. That could help the Wildcats’ chances here.
Iowa State is cursed when it comes to Farmageddon
The Cyclones always play the Wildcats close. They just never win Farmageddon.
K-State has beaten Iowa State 10 straight times. The average margin of victory over that span: 7.6 points.
Iowa State blew a 12-point lead on Saturday. It led 35-14 in its last trip to Manhattan, before fumbling away the game and losing 38-35. In 2009, Iowa State scored a late touchdown to pull within 24-23 and lost on a blocked extra point. This time around, Cyclones fans were steamed about officials picking up flags that would have gone against the Wildcats, including a pass interference penalty on Duke Shelley that would have given Iowa State a first down late in the fourth quarter.
Matt Campbell has Iowa State headed in the right direction, but he will have to wait at least another year to win Farmageddon.
Skylar Thompson is Captain Comeback
OK, so maybe the redshirt freshman has a ways to go before that nickname sticks. But he has led the Wildcats to three unlikely victories during his short time as K-State’s quarterback.
There was the overtime victory at Texas Tech. There was the upset win at Oklahoma State, in which he had nearly 300 yards of offense and four touchdowns. And there was the fourth-quarter comeback against Iowa State.
With its methodical offense, K-State has long been a team that prefers to play from ahead and dreads playing from behind, but that doesn’t seem to matter with Thompson. He thrived in the fourth quarter against Iowa State, completing 10 of 12 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. As Bill Snyder pointed out afterward, that makes you wonder why the Wildcats spent so much time running in the first three quarters.
Much has been made of the success K-State typically has with returning quarterbacks. It’s hard to see anything but a bright future for the Wildcats with Thompson leading the offense.
Skylar Thompson talks comeback victory over Iowa State. (Nov. 25, 2017)
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett