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2012 Cotton Bowl Preview

Arkansas Razorbacks vs Kansas State Wildcats

When the Kansas State Wildcats take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on the first Friday of the new year, they’ll be playing a game that is officially considered a non-BCS bowl. However, when one looks at the credentials of these two teams relative to others, it’s clear that this game possesses the legitimacy and heft befitting a BCS contest.

While Virginia Tech and Michigan were paired in a very dubious Sugar Bowl matchup, Kansas State and Arkansas must have been thinking on Sunday night that they should be meeting in New Orleans, locking horns in the Superdome. It might be true that Cowboys Stadium – Jerry Jones’s pleasure palace in Arlington, Texas – is a nicer, newer stadium than the old, Katrina-ravaged (and since-repaired) Superdome, but the Sugar Bowl offers a hefty payout to the schools’ participating conferences. The Cotton Bowl can’t yet match that payment as long as this Dallas-based classic remains classified as a non-BCS game. There has been talk in recent years which has centered around the idea of making the Cotton Bowl part of the Bowl Championship Series, but the powers that be in college football have yet to take that crucial step. For now, the Cotton Bowl Classic exists on a slightly lower tier, making this duel inside a dome not quite as prestigious as the Sugar Bowl’s own battle under the big top in the Big Easy. Kansas State and Arkansas are simply going to have to settle for what they have.

If these teams don’t complain about being in suburban Dallas, they could put on one heck of a show.

Kansas State is more of a one-man gang. The Wildcats, coached by Bill Snyder – the favorite for the national coach of the year award – would be nowhere near their 10-2 record if not for the wonderworking power of quarterback Collin Klein. The junior from Loveland, Colorado, has carried the Cats on his back, throwing for 1,745 yards but running for 1,099 more. Klein has accounted for 2,844 yards of total offense while amassing 38 touchdowns, 26 as a rusher and 12 as a passer. Moreover, those 38 touchdowns coexist alongside just five interceptions. Klein has truly been one of the most outstanding players this past season, and it’s a shame that he wasn’t invited to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist this upcoming weekend. Nevertheless, he’ll make KSU a tough team for Arkansas to knock out.

Speaking of Arkansas, the Razorbacks are a more complete team than Kansas State. Quarterback Tyler Wilson is a tough customer who has endured dozens of hard hits at the hands of physical defenses, particularly the bruisers from LSU and the bonecrushers from Alabama. Wilson is just the latest pocket passer to flourish under the direction of head coach Bobby Petrino, one of the very best play callers in all of college football. Yet, Wilson is just a passer, far from the dual-threat dynamo that Klein is. The Hogs rely on a well-rounded approach to produce points. Receiver Joe Adams leads a fleet-footed flotilla of flankers for Petrino’s offense. On special teams, Dennis Johnson is a dangerous returner whose kickoff return against South Carolina on Nov. 5 enabled the Razorbacks to turn momentum in their favor and defeat the upset-minded Gamecocks.

All in all, Arkansas has balance and depth, while Kansas State has Collin Klein. In a showcase game, we’ll see if one remarkable player can do enough work to overcome the overall stable of talent that Arkansas has assembled this season.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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