College football bowl season is almost upon us, and with all three local FBS programs bowl eligible for the second year in a row, once again we find the Kansas City metro abuzz with excitement. As bowls will not get announced until this coming Sunday with the CFP selection show, speculating where the three programs will end up has been a hot topic of discussion as of late. Let's go ahead and make my predictions so you all know where I stand. Hopefully I don't cause any controversy for picking Kansas to make the Rose Bowl...just jokes.
Kansas: The Pop Tarts Bowl vs. NC State, Orlando, Florida
Kansas went 8-4 this season, their best record since 2007 and their first winning record since then as well. The turnaround that Lance Leipold and company has executed for this football program has been absolutely unreal, and they've seen the fruits of their labors with players and coaches earning awards, such as defensive end Austin Booker winning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, among others. They've also seen back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in over a decade too. This season, I've seen Kansas projected for three different bowls: The Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, The Texas Bowl in Houston, and the Pop Tarts Bowl in Orlando. It was a toss-up between the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and the Pop Tarts Bowl, but I want to see Cole "Beefcake" Ballard take a bite out of that edible mascot, so Pop Tarts Bowl it is. NC State will be the ACC opponent they will face. The Wolfpack has enjoyed a late resurgence this season, going 9-3 after having a 4-3 rollercoaster start and winning 5 in a row. They will be a tough, but manageable opponent from a weaker ACC.
Kansas State: Texas Bowl vs. Texas A&M, Houston, Texas
Kansas State also went 8-4 this season, a season after winning the Big 12 championship and making an appearance at the Sugar Bowl. Overall, the season was about on par for what the Wildcats were supposed to be. Could have been better, but absolutely could have been worse, with Will Howard getting injured about halfway through the season, missing 3 games, and not really being himself after. They found a gem in Avery Johnson, who will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years. The two Kansas schools could certainly be two Big 12 juggernauts, which is really exciting. This year though I have the Wildcats going to the Texas Bowl in Houston. Texas A&M will be their opponent, a team that didn't live up to their expectations this year and went 7-5. Kansas State should benefit from facing this reeling program and should cruise to an easy win.
Missouri: Cotton Bowl vs. Penn State, Dallas, Texas
Missouri far exceeded expectations this year, going an astounding 10-2 off the back of their explosive offense, led by quarterback Brady Cook, running back Cody Schrader, and wide receivers Theo Wease and Luther Burden III. Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz did more than enough to save his position that was in question at the beginning of the year and has been very impressive in both recruiting and coaching. They were a few plays away from going undefeated, dropping very close games to LSU and Georgia, two SEC powerhouses. They have earned the right to play in a New Year's Six bowl game this year, and they will be headed down to Dallas to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions, per my prediction. Penn State couldn't be more opposite to the Tigers, with a very strong defense having to make up for an offense that struggled throughout the year. Nonetheless, the Nittany Lions still have a strong program that will give Missouri a game, and it'll be a fun game to watch.
It will be interesting to see where the three local programs end up come Sunday. Either way, the fact that this has happened twice in a row certainly is a welcome sight no matter who you root for. It makes the local sports atmosphere more fun and interesting when the three local college football programs are successful, and hopefully it continues for years to come.
Burn Notice: 10/10 These three schools are on fire!