Friday, January 6, 2012
Cotton Bowl: Kansas State vs. Arkansas
By Chris Low
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’s down to his final game in a Hogs’ uniform. He was remarkably consistent with his 11 touchdown catches and also improved dramatically with his ability to make things happen after the catch. The Hogs will go after Kansas’ State 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’ 6-5, 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 down 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 27 touchdowns 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 and 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.