SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Kansas State is headed back to the desert, this time to face Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
The Wildcats hope it goes a little better than the last time around.
National-title contenders until late in the season, Kansas State fell flat in last season’s Fiesta Bowl, losing 35-17 to Oregon.
“We’ve had so many opportunities to be in Phoenix and we’ve always been treated well by the people there,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said Sunday night after the bowl announcement. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity and are honored to be chosen.”
Coming off one of the program’s best season, Kansas State (7-5) struggled to open the season without Heisman Trophy finalist Colin Klein, losing four of their first six games, starting with a disheartening home loss to FCS school North Dakota State.
The Wildcats bounced back with a four-game winning streak and closed the regular season with a 31-10 rout of rival Kansas on Saturday to earn a spot in the Dec. 28 game at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
They’ll be facing a team that headed in the opposite direction as the season progressed.
Michigan (7-5) opened 5-0, but lost to Penn State in four overtimes to start a disappointing final two months. The Wolverines lost four of their final five games, though they came within a failed 2-point conversion of knocking off then-No. 2 Ohio State on Nov. 30 in one of the wildest games in the rivalry.
Michigan will be playing in a bowl game for the 37th time in 39 seasons, including the past four seasons and a victory over Nebraska in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl, its last time in Arizona.
“We’ve very excited about our football team and we feel very strongly that the young men we recruited in the two or three years we’ve been here now are the right young men,” Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “Now, it’s getting that experience. Even though through an entire season you should get that experience, you just can’t put a price tag on these 15 more practices where you can gain on individual drills and become a smarter football player.”