WHO: Navy (10-2) vs. Kansas State (8-4)
WHAT: The AutoZone Liberty Bowl
WHEN: December 31 at 3:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, TN
BUY TICKETS: Click Here
THE SKINNY: After a few down years, Navy bounced back in a big way this season. Although the Midshipmen didn’t play their way into the AAC championship game this season, the Midshipmen put together a 10-2 record that was worthy of Top-25 consideration and capped by a victory over rival Army to snap a losing streak to the Black Knights. Malcolm Perry has been one of the biggest reasons for the success this season and he will be looking to control the football against the Kansas State defense.
Perry rushed for 1,804 yards and 21 touchdowns this season and he mixed in over 1,000 passing yards and six more touchdowns. Perry running the triple-option has been as effective as ever for Navy, but the Wildcats will bring a pretty solid defense that will brace for Navy’s style of play.
Kansas State enjoyed the first season under new head coach Chris Klieman, who will coach in his first postseason bowl game. Of course, Klieman is no stranger to success in the postseason given his success at North Dakota State. But now he will channel a full playoff effort and preparation into one game. Needless to say, Kansas State should be prepared as well as it can possibly be. Finding a way to get quarterback Skyler Thompson in a groove should be the key, although the Wildcats may be able to handle their own weight on the offensive line with the running game too. Thompson will work the ground after rushing for 10 touchdowns and rushing for 402 yards, but handing off to James Gilbert will be the first option on the ground.
Expect plenty of rushing yards in this one, which could make for a pretty brisk pace with the clock always moving. But Navy’s option may be more of a drain on the Wildcats.
THE PICK: Navy 26, Kansas State 23
There is one less undefeated team in FBS college football after No. 5 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) saw a fourth-quarter rally against Kansas State (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) come up just short. An onside kick after cutting Kansas State’s lead to 48-41 was illegally touched by an Oklahoma player, and the Wildcats were able to go into a victory formation to close out the Sooners.
Kansas State held a 48-23 lead on the Sooners early in the fourth quarter after James Gilbert finished off a 10-play drive with a short touchdown run. But as so many teams trying to pull off a major upset have seen before, closing the door is often a difficult task, especially against a team with the potential to score at any moment like Oklahoma. Jalen Hurts (19/26, 395 yards, 1 TD, 96 rushing yards, 3 rushing TD) completed a pass to CeeDee Lamb on the first play from scrimmage after the Kansas State touchdown, and Lamb finished off a quick 70-play touchdown strike to keep hope alive. Oklahoma forced Kansas State to punt on their next two possessions, with a 90-yard touchdown drive in between.
Kansas State quarterback Skyler Thompson had a big day in a game that was supposed to star Hurts. Thompson passed for 213 yards and rushed for four touchdowns to help the Wildcats score their first win against a top 5 team since 2006.
So, what does this all mean for the Sooners? A season with a chance to defend their Big 12 title is still in the mix, and a spot in the College Football Playoff is certainly a bit more difficult to reach but not at all out of the question. Oklahoma still must respond to this loss with authority and take care of their schedule the rest of the way. A 1-loss Big 12 champion would still have a shot to gain a playoff spot. What is unknown is just how much additional help Oklahoma would potentially need. But that’s something to worry about later on if the Sooners remain in play.
The good news for Oklahoma, is there is such a thing, is this loss is not the kind of ugly loss that dooms them without question. Kansas State is on its way to a likely winning season, and the Sooners did claw back with a big game in the box score by their top Heisman Trophy candidate.
Oklahoma will get an extra week to stew over this one, as their next game will be played in two weeks at home against No. 23 Iowa State. Kansas State will look to follow-up this win with one next week on the road at Kansas. A win against the Jayhawks would make Kansas State bowl-eligible.
After serving his one-game suspension for a violation of team rules last week, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald made his 2018 season debut for Mississippi State this afternoon on the road against Kansas State. His first series of the year did not last very long, as the Bulldogs went three-and-out to open the game. Despite a tough first half of play, Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs do own a 17-3 lead on Kansas State at halftime in Manhattan, Kansas.
Mississippi State was able to open up a 14-point lead in the second quarter after the defense got an interception by Erroll Thompson, which led to a 28-yard touchdown run by Kylin Hill. Before that sequence, the game had been pretty close with defenses dictating the tempo of the game by not allowing many big-play opportunities.
Kansas State benefitted from the result of a controversial instant replay ruling. After appearing to have forced and recovered a fumble from Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson inside the red zone, officials ruled Thompson had enough control for a throwing motion and ruled the play an incomplete pass.
After being awarded possession of the football would tie the game with a 26-yard field goal by Blake Lynch.
Mississippi State appears to be in a comfortable spot with the way the defense is playing. Kansas State has 11 yards of total offense and has gone 2-of-7 on third down conversions. The Wildcats may not have the offense needed to come back so the Wildcats will have to make some big plays happen on defense to help out.