NCF Nation: 2012-Cotton-bowl-preview

We're ready to go for the final Big 12 game and the last big bowl before The Big Bowl on Monday night, the AllState BCS National Championship Game.

But for now, it's time to preview Friday's game between No. 8 Kansas State and No. 6 Arkansas. They'll get started at 8 p.m. ET at Cowboys Stadium on FOX.

WHO TO WATCH: Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. He's the guy who makes everything run for Kansas State's offense. The Wildcats go as he goes. He's improved as a passer throughout the season, and with his legs the offense's primary threat, it opens up easier throws down the field. Arkansas' defense has to make sure he's contained at all times and make sure it tackles well. He's proved how tough he is to bring down all season, and Arkansas will find out just how difficult it can be Friday.

WHAT TO WATCH: Tyler Wilson versus Kansas State's secondary. This has the potential to be explosive, either way. The last time Wilson faced a Big 12 secondary, he threw for 510 yards. Granted, Kansas State's defense is a lot better than Texas A&M's, especially at defending the pass. It also possesses the Big 12's interception leader, Nigel Malone, with seven. Linebacker Arthur Brown is fast enough to drop into coverage and be effective. This one is a must watch and, combined with Klein's production, will decide the game.

WHY TO WATCH: Let me count the ways. Two top 10 teams and arguably the second- or third-best matchup of all the bowl games. It's the only matchup between the Big 12 and the SEC. It's a matchup of two very different styles. How many more reasons do you need? This will be a fun one. Kansas State is a touchdown underdog, but the Wildcats were already an underdog in eight games this season. Of those eight games, it won six and finished 10-2. This is nothing new for Kansas State.

PREDICTION: Kansas State 34, Arkansas 31. I'll take the upset in this one. I've had a bead on the Wildcats all season, and I think Kansas State gets enough stops and the grinding running game frustrates an Arkansas defense that isn't strong enough to stop it. Since picking the Wildcats to lose by 14 to Baylor all the way back on Oct. 1, I've picked every Kansas State game correctly, including correctly picking it to win as an underdog four times. Let's make it five. College football's other honey badger at LSU gave Arkansas fits. Friday will make two.

Cotton Bowl: Kansas State vs. Arkansas

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
9:00
AM ET
Arkansas (10-2) plays its fourth game in Cowboys Stadium in the past 27 months on Friday night when it faces Kansas State (10-2) in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Here’s a preview:

WHO TO WATCH: Arkansas senior receiver Jarius Wright. After setting a number of school records this season, Wright is down to his final game in a Hogs’ uniform. He was remarkably consistent with his 11 touchdown catches and improved dramatically with his ability to make things happen after the catch. The Hogs will go after Kansas State's secondary, and Wright should get plenty of chances for big plays. The Wildcats lost two games this season to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and allowed more than 500 yards passing in each of those losses, not to mention a total of nine touchdown passes. You can bet that Wright is eager to get in on a little of that action.

WHAT TO WATCH: Arkansas defending Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. The Wildcats’ 6-foot-5, 225-pound junior quarterback carried the ball a Big 12-leading 293 times this season while rushing for 1,099 yards. He’ll run over players near the goal line and is athletic enough to run away from them in the open field. Having to deal with a running quarterback is never ideal for a defense, and Arkansas was ninth this season in the SEC when it came to defending the run. The Hogs, under the tutelage of new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, will look to take away Klein’s running lanes and force him to pass the ball. Klein has 26 rushing touchdowns this season, which is one short of Ricky Williams’ Big 12 record of when he won the Heisman Trophy at Texas in 1998.

WHY TO WATCH: The Hogs have made tremendous strides under Bobby Petrino and positioned themselves solidly among the SEC’s elite. They were close last season against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl (even though that game was later vacated). Here’s their chance against another top 10 team in a bowl game to punctuate what would be a certain top 10 finish nationally with a win. Plus, the contrasting styles of the two quarterbacks -- Tyler Wilson's throwing prowess and Klein’s running prowess -- could turn this game into a shootout.

PREDICTION: Arkansas 38, Kansas State 24. Wilson’s eyes had to light up when he started watching film of Kansas State’s pass defense. The Wildcats will have a difficult time matching up against the Hogs’ deep stable of playmakers. Arkansas still has to prove that it can stop a quality offense, but the Hogs are healthy on defense and have more than a few seniors on that side of the ball determined to go out the right way.

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