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Brenden Welper | NCAA.com | December 30, 2019

Kansas State vs. Navy: Liberty Bowl prediction, time, TV channel, preview

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Kansas State (8-4) and No. 23 Navy (10-2) will meet in the 2019 Liberty Bowl. Find the game time, television info, preview and prediction below.

Kickoff is 3:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. ESPN will televise the game. It will stream on WatchESPN.

Kansas State vs. Navy: Liberty Bowl preview

This will be the first-ever meeting between these two programs. Each team is making its second appearance in the Liberty Bowl. Kansas State lost to Arkansas 45-23 in 2016, while Navy fell to Ohio State 31-28 back in 1981.

The Wildcats had a strong regular season under first-year head coach Chris Klieman. They started 3-0 before dropping two straight, but would later complete one of the biggest upsets in 2019. Kansas State stunned then-No. 5 Oklahoma 48-41 on Oct. 26. It was the Sooners' only loss heading into the College Football Playoff semifinal against No. 1 LSU. 

The Midshipmen finished the regular season at No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings. A 35-23 loss to Memphis on Sept. 26 and a 52-20 beatdown to then-No. 16 Notre Dame on Nov. 16 were the only blemishes of Navy's 2019 campaign. With a win over Kansas State, it would mark just the second time in Ken Niumatalolo's 12 seasons that his team reached 11 victories.

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As is often the case with service academies, Navy's offense relies heavily on its running game. But not from a traditional tailback. The Midshipmen's leading rusher is quarterback Malcolm Perry, who has run for more yards (1,804, the fourth-most in FBS) than he has thrown for (1,027) in 2019. Perry's 21 rushing touchdowns are tied for the third-most in the country.

Navy ranks first among FBS teams when it comes to total rushing yards (4,364) and rushing yards per game (363.7). Fullbacks Jamale Carothers (712 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Nelson Smith (570 yards, seven touchdowns) help form the Midshipmen's triple-option attack.

Kansas State's rushing defense (which ranks 60th out of all 130 FBS teams) will certainly be tested. The Wildcats allowed 152.3 yards per game on the ground during the regular season. That's slightly above average, but they also gave up 18 rushing touchdowns.

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So it'll be imperative that Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson works quickly and efficiently, because Navy's offense will eat up plenty of time. Thompson has thrown for 2,191 yards and 12 touchdown passes in 2019. He's completed 59 percent of his passes, and has also run for 10 touchdowns on just 402 yards.

Kansas State vs. Navy: Liberty Bowl prediction

It's no secret as to what this game boils down to, and that's the matchup between Navy's rushing attack and Kansas State's run defense. Whichever side prevails will likely decide the outcome.

The prediction: Navy 34, Kansas State 21

kansas state   navy
8-4 (5-4 Big 12) Record (Conference) 10-2 (7-1 AAC)
30.7 Points per game 38.6
21.5 Points allowed 22.8
374.7 Yards per game 458.7
185.7 Passing YPG 95.0
189.0 Rushing YPG 363.7
364.0 Yards allowed per game 326.1
211.7 Passing yards allowed 215.3
152.3 Rushing yards allowed 110.8
Skylar Thompson
2,191 yards (12 TD, 5 INT)
Passing  Malcolm Perry
1,027 yards (6 TD, 3 INT) 
James Gilbert
698 yards (5.2 per att.), 6 TD
Rushing  Malcolm Perry
1,804 yards (6.8 per att.), 21 TD
Dalton Schoen
567 yards, 4 TD
Receiving  Mychal Cooper
355 yards, 2 TD
Denzel Goolsby
56 tackles, 2 INT
Defensive leader Diego Fagot
93 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF

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