Midway through Kansas State’s blowout victory over Texas Tech last weekend, a scout for the Fiesta Bowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl posed a question to those around him in the press box.
How did K-State, a team that is one victory away from bowl eligibility with three games to go, start the season with a loss to North Dakota State?
“I don’t understand that one,” he said. “They are a great team.”
That surprise was understandable. The bowl games he represents get first and fourth pick of Big 12 teams, so he doesn’t normally spend much time evaluating teams that lose to lower-division teams. But if the Wildcats continue to play the way they have during their current three-game winning streak — all lopsided victories — they may end up earning an invitation to one of the league’s top four postseason games.
They have plenty of work to do to climb that high — the Holiday or Texas bowls are more likely destinations — but it is possible.
K-State, 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12, sits sixth in the Big 12 standings, and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is the fourth bowl in the Big 12 pecking order, followed by the Holiday, Texas and Pinstripe. If K-State wins its final three games against TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas it could catch both Texas Tech, 7-3 and 4-3, and Oklahoma, 7-2 and 4-2.
That would give K-State head-to-head victories over both the Red Raiders and the Sooners, and a six-game winning streak. Add in K-State’s large traveling fan base, and it could hold all the tiebreakers.
More probable scenarios end with K-State heading to the Holiday Bowl, on Dec. 30 in San Diego against a Pac-12 foe, or the Texas Bowl, on Dec. 27 in Houston against a Big Ten team.
If K-State fails to move up the standings, there are few other destinations. A drop to the Pinstripe Bowl is possible, but seems unlikely. West Virginia is unlikely to top K-State in the bowl order, though TCU could if it wins its remaining games.
Of course, K-State needs to win one more game before any bowl game becomes a possibility.