Guide to Big 12 bowl games: Kansas State

BCS Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
(11-1) No. 5 K-State vs. (11-1) No. 4 Oregon 7:30 p.m. CT Thur, Jan. 3 | Univ. of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Ariz.
K-State: A BCS Championship Game, and probably the Heisman Trophy, all went down the drain for the Wildcats all on account of … the Baylor Bears’ defense. A unit that currently ranks next-to-last amongst its FBS peers. Only Louisiana Tech (526) gave up more yards per game than Baylor (514). Yet on a warm November 17 night in Waco, Collin Klein and the Wildcats scratched out 362 yards, converting just eight of 19 third downs, and Klein was intercepted three times.

And then there was a week to stew it over. K-State had a Bye on its second-to-last weekend before closing out with Texas. Instead of letting the loss fester like mold and letting it spread, the Wildcats instead beat Texas by 18 points while allowing more yards than the Horns. Klein passed for 184 yards on just eight completions, accounting for 79% of K-State’s offense.

Klein became the first signal-caller at a BCS school to log 20 rushing touchdowns and 10 passing touchdowns in consecutive seasons.

Don’t overlook special teams from K-State. The Wildcats led the NCAA in kickoff return and punt return yardage with three returns for touchdowns. Kicker Anthony Cantele has hit on 86 percent of his 21 fieldgoal attempts, including four-of-five from 40 yards or beyond. In a close game, K-State owns a clear advantage on special teams.

Wildcats in Bowls:
Not K-State’s specialty, of late. KSU is 6-9 all-time in bowls, 6-7 under Bill Snyder, while the program has lost five of its last six bowl games overall. K-State lost to Ohio State in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl and beat Syracuse in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl.  KSU is 2-0 against Pac-10/Pac-12 schools, beating Arizona State in the 2002 Holiday and Washington in the 1999 Holiday.

K-State’s true bowl legacy is of changing the way the Big 12 selects its teams. In 1998 the Wildcats lost to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship Game, missing a chance to play for the BCS Championship. K-State was then passed over in the bowl selection by the Cotton and Holiday Bowls, ending up playing in the Alamo Bowl against Drew Brees and Purdue. The conference then modified how its bowl partners select teams.

Fiesta Bowl:
The Big 12 has won its last three straight appearances in this bowl. In a round-about way, it could be considered four straight, as in 2008 Oklahoma lost to current Big 12 member West Virginia. The game was played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe from its inception in 1971 up through the game of January 2006. The 2007 game, featuring Oklahoma and Boise State and the infamous overtime Statue of Liberty play in overtime, was the first at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

The Fiesta Bowl also owns and operates the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, this year featuring TCU against Michigan State at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Oregon: A fitting pairing for K-State in a bowl game. Minutes after the Wildcats had lost to Baylor to end its national championship hopes, Oregon followed suit in Eugene. The Ducks dropped an overtime decision to Stanford and watched its own national championship hopes swirl down the drain.

The Ducks have the nation’s second-most potent offense in the nation, as only Louisiana Tech scored more points. Oregon does its damage on the ground, led by Kenjon Barner, the NCAA’s 5th-leading rusher. He pounded out 1,624 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas together average another 100-plus yards a game.

This is Oregon’s fourth straight year in a BCS bowl, playing in the Rose last year and at the conclusion of the 2009 season, plus the BCS Championship Game against Auburn after the 2010 season.