Kansas State Wildcats to play Alabama Crimson Tide in Sugar Bowl

The Kansas State Wildcats are headed to New Orleans on New Year’s Eve for their bowl game this season, with a meeting scheduled against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.

K-State came in ninth in the final College Football Playoff rankings this year, and by virtue of winning the Big 12 title and not being part of the Playoff field the Wildcats locked into this year’s Sugar Bowl. Alabama, meanwhile, is the top-ranked SEC team that didn’t make it to the Playoff.

The Crimson Tide was the first team out of the field, finishing fifth in the rankings.

“It was something that I don’t think a lot of people thought that K-State would be in that Big 12 championship game, let alone win it,” Wildcats coach Chris Klieman said. “But our guys always believed that we would and could if we continued to rise up and play to our opportunities. And lo and behold, we were able to do it, and excited for the guys. We’re looking forward to coming to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.”

K-State is on a four-game winning streak, including Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game. Alabama has won three in a row but didn’t play for its conference championship. That honor from the SEC West went to LSU, which beat Alabama on Nov. 5.

This matchup will feature a pair of significant firsts for the Kansas State program. It will be the Wildcats’ first-ever appearance in the Sugar Bowl, and it will be their first-ever meeting against the Crimson Tide.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for our players, for starters, to be able to play a great opponent like Alabama out of the SEC,” Klieman said, adding: “I know our guys, when they saw Alabama come up, they were excited about getting a chance to play one of the traditional powers for decades in college football.”

While K-State is treating the Sugar Bowl berth as a major, exciting accomplishment, the tone around the game isn’t as overwhelmingly positive from the Alabama side.

“We wanted to see our team have an opportunity to play and get into the Playoff,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We’re going to get an opportunity to play someone somewhere in a good game. That’s going to be an opportunity for our players to create value for themselves and show what kind of team we really have.”

Saban implied some Crimson Tide players may not play in the game, electing instead to opt out to prepare for the NFL draft. He didn’t name any players in particular, however.

Klieman made a similar comment in response to what Saban said, stating that it’s just a part of the sport today.

“That’s the nature of college football right now,” Klieman said. “And whether or not a guy is going to go and prepare for the draft and not risk the injury, those are all personal decisions that everybody has.”

The Sugar Bowl is set for an 11:00 a.m. kickoff on Dec. 31. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the spread for the game opened with Alabama favored by 6.5 points.