Sunday, December 4, 2011
AT&T Cotton Bowl
By David Ubben and Edward Aschoff
Kansas State Wildcats (10-2) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2)
Jan. 6, 8 p.m. (FOX)
Kansas State take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Kansas State does it ugly. All the time, every time. But it does it. The Cats are college football's biggest overachievers, and they do it on the back of Collin Klein, who has dragged defenders on his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame for 1,099 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. By the way, he's the quarterback. Never mind his wonky delivery. He's gotten better and more accurate as the season has gone on, and somehow has stayed healthy. He just might be the toughest player in college football, and if you're watching K-State's offense, he's probably the guy with the ball in his hand.
Bill Snyder deserves the national coach of the year nod, and the Wildcats have had a defensive renaissance under coordinator Chris Cosh in 2011. This is the same team that gave up more than 3,000 rushing yards last year. Well, sort of. It's not quite the same team. Linebacker Arthur Brown doesn't miss very many tackles and he's one of the Big 12's speediest linebackers. Cornerback Nigel Malone picked off seven passes this year for an All-Big 12 caliber season.
Arkansas take from SEC blogger Edward Aschoff: Before the season, it looked as if coach Bobby Petrino was equipped with his best, most complete team since his arrival in Fayetteville. The defense was easily the best he had, and while quarterback Ryan Mallett was gone, Tyler Wilson appeared to be just as talented, and with their wealth at wide receiver, it didn’t look like the Razorbacks would miss a beat in the passing game. Not to mention Arkansas had one of the SEC’s best in running back Knile Davis.
But days before the season began, the Hogs were dealt a crushing blow when Davis went down with a season-ending ankle injury. With Davis sidelined, the Arkansas offense became more one-dimensional as it searched for a consistent running back. Injuries then took hold of the defense and the Hogs found themselves outmanned in a huge game with Alabama, losing 38-14. The Razorbacks then struggled to get going in the first half of games after that. The slow starts nearly cost them at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, but things changed during their homecoming game with South Carolina.
The Hogs jumped out quickly against the Gamecocks and never looked back. Starting with that 44-28 win, the Razorbacks won their first three games in November by a combined score of 137-52. Arkansas had an opportunity to shake up the BCS and sneak into the national championship, but fell 41-17 to No. 1 LSU in its season finale. Still, Arkansas had another fine year under Petrino, getting to 10 wins and finishing first in the SEC in total offense (445.8 yards per game).