Things we old-timers never thought we’d live to see: Gladly paying $4.00 for a cup of coffee, people married to their phones and K-State playing in a bowl game for the 16th time in 21 years.
This is the sixth time that K-State has gone bowling in Arizona; it’s the third time that they’ll play at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State. The ‘Cats have split Fiesta Bowls played in Tempe, drilling Donovan McNabb and Syracuse in 1997, before losing to Ohio State in 2004. In truth, this is actually the fourth time that Bill Snyder has brought a team into Sun Devil Stadium, the first game he ever coached at KSU was a 31-0 loss to Arizona State in 1988.
With 70 schools playing in the post season bowling isn’t what it used to be. But it still provides a program three extra weeks of practice and that’s invaluable in terms of developing younger players who haven’t gotten quality practice reps during the season. If you’re not moving forward in college football you’re losing ground, certainly a bowl game is the culmination of one season, but it’s also the start of another.
Kansas State has lost five straight bowl games; ironically, their last win came against Arizona State the school whose stadium they’ll play in on Saturday. Kansas State beat the Sun Devils 34-27 in the 2002 Holiday Bowl. The Wildcats are 0-3 against the Big Ten in bowl games, losing to Wisconsin (’83 Independence), Purdue (’98 Alamo) and Ohio State (’04 Fiesta). This is the first ever meeting between Michigan and Kansas State.
One of the great challenges any coaching staff has in a bowl game, is quickly shaking the rust off their team. In each of their last two bowls K-State has been hurt by slow starts. Arkansas lead 19-0 before KSU showed up at the Cotton Bowl two years ago and Oregon returned the opening kickoff for a score in last year’s Fiesta. In a sixty minute contest the team that gets back to game speed the quickest has a nice advantage, remember the ‘Cats haven’t played in a month.
Narrow margin for error---
Even Bill Snyder was a little whimsical wondering ‘what if’ when I asked him about his season recently. His ‘Cats lost their five games by average of seven points and they were in a position to win in three of those five losses. The games that went their way a year ago went against them this season, which is reflective of an early lack of maturity. Kansas State started the season 2-4 because of penalties, turnovers and an unsettled situation at quarterback. They finished 5-1 because Snyder and his staff were able to clean all that up, having said that, they did not play at a high level over the season’s last three weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how sharp the Wildcats are against a Michigan team that went in reverse of the ‘Cats---starting the season fast, finishing it slow, but with a bunch of close losses. It’s an intriguing matchup, one that I’ll start getting into more detail on tomorrow.