MANHATTAN, Kan. – For the first time in school history, K-State Nation is headed to Florida for a bowl game, as Kansas State officials announced Sunday afternoon that the Wildcats have accepted an invitation to play No. 18 NC State in the Pop-Tarts Bowl inside Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The game will take place on Tuesday, December 28 at 4:45 p.m. (CT) and will air on ESPN.
K-State will be playing in the state of Florida for just the seventh time ever and the first since a 28-24 victory at Miami on September 24, 2011.
“We are thrilled to represent the Big 12 Conference in the Pop-Tarts Bowl,” said K-State head coach Chris Klieman, the first head coach in school history to lead his team to four bowl games in his first five seasons. “I am proud of our team, especially our seniors, and our staff for keeping their heads down and grinding through this season. We appreciate Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan and his staff for their interest in us and look forward to heading to Orlando for the first time in school history and preparing for a great opponent in NC State.”
The Wildcats finished No. 25 in the final College Football Playoff Top 25, a year after ranking No. 9 in the final poll. It marks the first time since 2011 and 2012 they finished ranked in the BCS or CFP Top 25. K-State, which finished with an 8-4 overall record and a 6-3 mark in Big 12 action to tie for fourth in the conference, is among the nation’s leaders in bowl appearances since 1993 as the Wildcats are tied for 16th nationally and rank fourth in the Big 12 with 24. K-State will also be one of just 16 Power 5 teams to play in a bowl game at least 12 times in the last 14 years.
“We are excited to be selected to play in the Pop Tarts Bowl,” said Athletics Director Gene Taylor. “It will be a phenomenal opportunity for our fans and program as we travel to the state of Florida for the first time in our rich bowl history. We look forward to showcasing our football team and Kansas State University in Orlando, and I know our fans will continue to uphold their national reputation for traveling to bowl games when we head to the Pop-Tarts Bowl. Congratulations to our players and coaching staff for another great season as I know they are excited to end the year in this terrific bowl game.”
Kansas State’s eight-win regular season makes the Wildcats the only current Big 12 team with a three-year streak of winning at least eight games, while they are one of only 11 Power 5 teams to claim that feat. K-State’s four losses in 2023 were by a combined 21 points as its 5.25 average margin of defeat this season is the smallest among three- and four-loss Power 5 teams.
Additionally, K-State enters bowl season as one of just 11 Power 5 teams ranked in the top 30 in both scoring offense (37.8 points per game) and scoring defense (21.2 points per game), as the Wildcats rank second in the Big 12 in each of those categories.
Kansas State opened the 2023 campaign with a pair of home wins over SEMO and Troy – the latter being an 11-win Sun Belt Conference Champion – by a combined score of 87-13. The Wildcats closed non-conference play with a 30-27 loss at Missouri on an SEC-record 61-yard field goal, which propelled the Tigers throughout the season as they finished ninth in the final College Football Playoff Top 25. Missouri will face Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.
The Wildcats opened Big 12 play with a 44-31 home victory over UCF but dropped a 29-21 Friday-night contest at Oklahoma State, a team that went on to play for the Big 12 Championship.
Sitting at 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play, K-State won five of its final seven games, which included a road win at Texas Tech (38-21), back-to-back blowouts of TCU (41-3) and Houston (41-0), a 34-point victory over Baylor (59-25) and a come-from-behind 31-27 victory at then-No. 25 Kansas, the Wildcats’ 15th-straight victory over its in-state rival.
The first of just two losses over the final half of the season was at Texas, a game in which K-State battled back from a 27-7 deficit to force overtime before eventually falling to the playoff-bound Longhorns, 33-30. The other loss was a 42-35 home setback to Iowa State in a snowy battle in the final regular-season game.
K-State and NC State will meet on the gridiron for the first time ever, while it will be the Wildcats’ first game against a current ACC member since a 52-13 home victory over Miami. The 2023 Pop-Tarts Bowl will be the first time ever the Wildcats will play a bowl game against a team in the ACC at the time of the game. K-State did defeat current ACC member Syracuse, 35-18, in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl and lost to the Orange in the 2001 Insight.com Bowl and 2010 Pinstripe Bowl when it was a member of the Big East, while the Wildcats lost another Big East-turned-ACC member Boston College in the 1994 Aloha Bowl.
NC State finished the regular season with a 9-3 overall record and 6-2 ACC record to finish third in the conference. The Wolfpack enters the Pop-Tarts Bowl on a five-game winning streak, including a 24-17 win over Clemson, which finished at No. 23 in the final College Football Playoff Top 25.
Tickets in the official K-State sections are available now online at www.kstatesports.com/bowlgame and via phone beginning at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Remaining tickets in the official K-State sections are priced by the bowl beginning at $45 and up to $170. Tickets in some sections were sold out through pre-orders.
All Ahearn Fund members and fans who pre-ordered tickets will receive communication with information regarding their requests by the end of the day. K-State students will receive information regarding student tickets via email today.
The K-State Alumni Association will also provide official travel packages to the bowl game. Visit the Alumni Association’s official bowl travel page – www.k-statesportstours.com – for travel package information.