Pop-Tarts Bowl? Guaranteed Rate? Here’s where KU football could land in bowl season

Kansas football ended its regular season with a dominant 49-16 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday.

KU (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) handled a season filled with injuries to football’s most important position — quarterback — as well as it probably could have.

Still, Jayhawk fans will likely look back on this season and wonder: What if starter Jalon Daniels had stayed healthy the whole year? Or what if backup QB Jason Bean didn’t miss most of the Texas Tech and K-State games, both turning into narrow defeats?

Nevertheless, the season was another big step forward in Year 3 under coach Lance Leipold. The Jayhawks made a bowl game for a second straight year and finished with their best regular-season record since 2007.

KU fans now eagerly await Sunday, which is bowl selection day. Nine Big 12 teams will head to a bowl game, and KU is in the middle of the pack.

Here’s what you need to know about the bowl-selection process.

How the Big 12 bowl order is set

Three Big 12 schools (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas) still have a chance for a New York’s Six bowl, and Texas is effectively the only Big 12 school with an opportunity to make the College Football Playoff.

What happens in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game between Texas and OSU will help determine which bowl games the rest of the conference slots into.

Here’s the pecking order of Big 12 bowl games:

  • College Football Playoff

  • New Year’s Six

  • Valero Alamo

  • Pop-Tarts

  • TaxAct Texas

  • AutoZone Liberty

  • Guaranteed Rate

  • Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl*/SERVPRO First Responder Bowl*

  • Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl

Once the CFP/New York’s Six is set for bowl slots, Big 12 bowl partners pick from the remaining conference teams. A bowl may select from any available teams with .500 or better records when it reaches its spot in the selection order.

Currently, Kansas is tied for fifth in the Big 12 conference standings.

Kansas Jayhawks bowl outlook

Regular season record: 8-4, 5-4 Big 12

Big 12 rank: Tied for fifth

Bowl Projections: Guaranteed Rate Bowl vs. Maryland via The Action Network, Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl vs. Wyoming via ESPN, Guaranteed Rate Bowl vs. Northwestern via USA Today and Guaranteed Rate Bowl vs. Maryland via The Athletic

Analysis:

Well, I hope KU fans are ready to celebrate the holidays in Phoenix. Three experts have Kansas playing in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Dec. 26.

The Guaranteed Rate Bowl gets the fifth pick after the New Year’s Six bowls, so there’s a good chance the bowl’s reps will choose the Jayhawks if they are still available.

The main competition for this bowl would appear to be Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State.

Technically, the bowl is lower in the pecking order than KU’s bowl game last season — the Liberty Bowl. But don’t expect Kansas to go to the same bowl game twice, as that rarely happens.

Of course, KU fans (and at least one player) have expressed interest in another bowl game on social media. Many would love to go to the Pop-Tarts Bowl in Orlando, but that opportunity looks like it may go to rival Kansas State.

For Kansas to end up in a high-tier bowl, like the Pop-Tarts Bowl, the Big 12 would need a little love in the final College Football Playoff rankings.

For example, if the Big 12 sends two teams (or three) to major bowls, every other team in the conference would move up. That could move Kansas into the range of the Pop-Tarts Bowl in Orlando or TaxAct Texas Bowl in Houston.

If Kansas fans are steadfast on the Pop-Tarts Bowl, it’s time to pray for a little chaos. Here’s the most likely scenario...

If Texas wins the Big 12 championship, KU fans would need to root for the Longhorns to somehow jump all the way into the CFB Playoff field. Then, you’d need Oklahoma to land in a New Year’s Six bowl. At the very least, you’d need both in the New Year’s Six.

If Oklahoma State upsets Texas, you’d still need at least two Big 12 schools to make the New Year’s Six to even make it a conversation.

If one of Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fell short of the NY6, likely landing in the Alamo Bowl, then KU would compete with K-State, West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas Tech for the Pop-Tarts Bowl.

A positive on KU’s side? Representatives from the Pop-Tarts Bowl were present at some of KU’s games. But that seems like a pipe dream right now, which could only be realized if some chaos happens this weekend.

The most likely landing spots, for now: the Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Phoenix), TaxAct Texas Bowl (Houston) or Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth).