Football Friday: Kansas State, Michigan, Nebraska and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Football Friday is back. Who else is excited?

This is a good week to talk Kansas State football. The Wildcats are headed to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl later this month to take on Michigan, and that should be a highly competitive game. Both teams went 7-5 in the regular season and K-State is an early 3.5-point favorite.

And with a title sponsor like Buffalo Wild Wings, you know the game won’t be decided until the final play.

Anyway, let’s get onto your questions. Thanks, as always, for providing them.

Nebraska vs. Kansas State definitely seemed like the more compelling matchup, and I think most expected the former Big 8/Big 12 rivals to meet in Tempe. The Cornhuskers won more games than the Wolverines and beat them head-to-head, yet the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl opted for Michigan. You don’t see that every day. It would have been like Texas Tech jumping over K-State in the Big 12 bowl order. There are, however, a few reasonable explanations why Michigan was the more attractive team. For starters, K-State and Michigan have never played. It’s always fun to create new matchups in bowls. K-State now gets a shot against a storied program. Conversely, Nebraska and K-State have played 95 times, with the Cornhuskers winning 78 of those games. They have even played in a bowl game (kind of) before. Anyone remember the 1992 Coca-Cola Bowl in Tokyo? I get that K-State vs. Nebraska would have been cool, but from a bowl executive’s point of view, are Nebraska fans going to be fired up for another game against K-State?

Michigan also travels well to bowl games and gives the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl major name recognition, even though it finished the season poorly. Nebraska also ended the season on a low note, with Bo Pelini daring his bosses to fire him. The Lincoln Journal Star also reported this week that Nebraska is having trouble selling tickets to the Gator Bowl. Maybe the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl thought Nebraska fans would stay home for its game, too.

Yes. Going up against No. 14 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl would have been a major challenge for K-State. The Sun Devils have a high-powered offense and they have won seven of their last eight. I think the Wildcats could have beaten them (Bill Snyder is undefeated in the Holiday Bowl and K-State’s last bowl victory came over Arizona State in … you guessed it … The Holiday Bowl) but Arizona State would have been favored. Michigan, which has lost four of five and often struggles to score in the Big Ten, appears to be the softer opponent. Big Ten teams aren’t that difficult to prepare for. They don’t have the speed and crazy offenses you find in the Pac-12 and they don’t have the toughness and swagger you find in the SEC. Michigan shouldn’t be that different from what K-State has seen all year, and I think most K-State fans expect the Wildcats to win.

The downside to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is that it isn’t in San Diego. Nothing against the Phoenix area, I always enjoy my time there, but K-State played down the street in the Fiesta Bowl last season. This won’t feel like a new trip.

Michigan surrenders 228 passing yards per game, so its secondary can be had. I wouldn’t expect Tyler Lockett to have much trouble, especially after he excelled against TCU lockdown corner Jason Verrett and Oklahoma’s capable pass defense. But Michigan’s defensive backs do thrive in one area: takeaways. Michigan had 17 interceptions this season, with Blake Countess leading the way with six. Raymon Taylor also had four interceptions while leading the team in tackles. K-State’s quarterbacks will need to be careful.

For those who don’t know, K-State has had at least one player taken in the NFL Draft for 20 straight years. It’s an impressive streak. Will it end this season? My guess is no. Ty Zimmerman and Cornelius Lucas will be the main NFL Draft hopefuls. Someone will surely take a chance on Zimmerman. He could go in one of the middle rounds. The senior safety won all-conference honors every year he played. He can play defensive back at the next level. Lucas hasn’t improved this season at left tackle, so he will be on the bubble. For both, a lot will depend on how they perform at K-State’s Pro Day and possibly the NFL combine.

Excellent question. For a while, I thought about calling it “Football Friday” while answering basketball questions the same way Conan O’Brien refused to change the name of his “In the Year 2000” sketch after 2000 was well in the past. But the more I think about it, that’s too confusing. I will either switch to a name that covers all K-State questions or create a new Q&A feature for basketball. Anyone have any name suggestions?