ANN ARBOR — Pack warm-weather clothing, drink plenty of water, and don’t forget the blue cheese dressing. Get a pregame nap in, as well.
The Michigan football team will head to Arizona for the holidays, and for a late-night bowl game. The Wolverines will face Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at 10:15 p.m. Dec. 28 in Tempe, Ariz.
The pairing in the desert is one of the unlikelier ones, which could add to part of the appeal; Michigan and Kansas State of the Big 12 Conference have never met.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl also means an opportunity for some redemption for the Wolverines (7-5), who lost four of their final five regular-season games.
“You don’t wipe the season clean, but you emphasize your mistakes and those losses,” said Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who spoke on behalf of UM coach Brady Hoke, who was flying back to Michigan Sunday night following a recruiting visit.
“You make sure during the extra bowl game practices that you emphasize it and allow it not to happen again. The great thing about bowl games is that you get extra practices. It gets your young guys another 15, or 12 practices to get better and improve on the mistakes they’ve made.”
The selection of Michigan to the Arizona bowl game ended a twisting, turning night in which the Wolverines appeared to go either to the Gator Bowl or to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. National publications projected Michigan in both bowls, and both the Jacksonville (Fla.) Times-Union and the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald reported that Michigan would face Georgia in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., while the Kansas City Star reported Michigan would face Kansas State in Arizona.
Just before 9 p.m., the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl announced Sunday night that Michigan would face Kansas State in the bowl game, which is three days after Christmas.
The Wildcats (7-5) won five of their last six games to become bowl-eligible; Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett was third in the Big 12 in receiving (1,146 yards), and led the conference in all-purpose yards (1,665). Teammate Ryan Mueller, a junior defensive end, was second in the Big 12 with 11.5 sacks and led the conference with 18.5 solo tackles for a loss.
“For our young guys to continue to make the kind of progress, that’s important for our program, and to have the opportunity to compete in a bowl game year in and year out is very significant,” Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said. “That’s important to them and it’s important to me.”
Michigan takes a similar approach to its final game of the season.
“We’re very, very excited about our football team,” Mattison said. “We feel very strongly that the young men we’ve recruited are the right men. Now, it’s about getting that experience. Even though it’s not a whole season, you should have that experience. You can’t put a price tag on these 15 more practices where you can gain in individual drills and become a better football player.
“Every chance they get to play another game and have that practice time is tremendous for us.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.