TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Kansas State followed up last year's BCS bowl run with a thud, opening the season with a loss to FCS school North Dakota State at home.
It didn't get much better after that, with three more losses over the next five games, leaving the Wildcats not only out of the BCS bowl picture but in danger of missing the postseason altogether.
Then something clicked.
Kicking its offense into another, high-scoring gear, Kansas State (7-5) reeled off five wins in its final six games to earn a spot in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan on Saturday night.
"They learned a little bit about how to practice, how to prepare," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "It's something that they probably took for granted at the outside of the season. I think they finally said, 'Hey, let's do it the right way.'"
Michigan (7-5) finished with the same record as the Wildcats but headed in the wrong direction as the season progressed.
The Wolverines opened with five straight victories, including a win over Notre Dame in their second game.
Michigan stumbled to the finish, though, losing five of its final seven.
Other than a 29-6 loss to Michigan State, the Wolverines were in every game but just couldn't finish things off.
"No question, this football team is 11 points away from being 11-1," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "We haven't finished games and executed the way we needed to at the end of the games."
Here are five things to watch for in the Buffalo Wings Bowl:
MICHIGAN'S QB: The Wolverines were hit with a huge blow when quarterback Devin Gardner hurt his toe in their regular-season finale against Ohio State. Gardner, who's thrown for over 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns the past two seasons, aggravated the injury last week and is out for the bowl game, leaving Michigan in the hands of freshman Shane Morris. He attempted nine passes in three games this season and played just four games as a high school senior because of mononucleosis.