With the No. 3 (Oklahoma State) and No. 4 (Stanford) teams matched in the Fiesta Bowl, many figured that game would be among the best of the post-season. The Cowboys' 41-38 overtime victory delivered in excitement and drama.
Based on that thinking, the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas Friday should also be game worth watching. Kansas State finished No. 8 in the final BCS standings while No. 6 Arkansas (10-2) is the highest ranked team not playing a BCS bowl. The game is a sellout.
"I know (the Razorbacks) are a very talented football team," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "They probably have the same feelings we do and feel like they've accomplished a great deal this year."
As did Kansas State. The Wildcats (10-2, 7-2) were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 but were one of the biggest surprises in college football. Their two losses came in consecutive games to eventual Big 12 champion Oklahoma State and to preseason No. 1 Oklahoma.
Kansas State junior quarterback Collin Klein had a breakout season. He passed for 1,745 yards and 12 touchdowns but his running ability is what made the Wildcats' offense effective. Klein carried 293 times for 1,099 yards – a school record for a quarterback – and 26 touchdowns.
"He's going to create for us a great challenge," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's first very, very talented, a tremendous runner, has really shown that he can throw the football with anybody in the country. We're going to have to be very disciplined on defense, do a great job with our eyes, be able to tackle well.
"I think that's the one thing, not only in the quarterback runs that they call for him but also in his ability to scramble out on pass calls."
Junior quarterback Tyler Wilson led the SEC with 3,422 passing yards while completing 63.1 percent of his passes and throwing 22 touchdowns to six interceptions. His favorite target is Jarius Wright, who led the conference with 11 receiving TDs and was second with 63 catches and 1,029 yards.
Kansas State vs. Arkansas
Need to know: 7 p.m. Jan. 6, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, FOX.
Team records: Kansas State 10-2, Arkansas 10-2.
Scouting Kansas State
The Wildcats' biggest challenge will be slowing the Arkansas passing game. In Kansas State's two losses to the Big 12's top two passing attacks (Oklahoma State and Oklahoma), it allowed 110 points and over 1,000 passing yards. The Wildcats were average when it comes to sacking the quarterback so there will be a lot of pressure on K-State's secondary. The best way to stop the Razorbacks will be to keep the offense off the field. That's where the Wildcats' ball-control running game comes into play. After a physically taxing season, junior quarterback Collin Klein should be fresh; Kansas State last played over six weeks ago.
The Razorbacks rank 13th nationally in passing offense as quarterback Tyler Wilson has had an outstanding season (22 touchdowns, six interceptions). Wilson has a number of productive targets, led by senior Jarius Wright (63 receptions, 11 touchdowns). Arkansas has had trouble stopping the run, which could be an issue against Kansas State. The Razorbacks rank No. 80 in rushing defense.
Arkansas lost two games – to LSU and Alabama, the teams playing in the BCS national championship. … One of the Razorbacks' victories was a 42-38 decision against Texas A&M in Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 1. … Arkansas' staff is in flux. Since the end of the season, offensive coordinator Garrick McGee (UAB) and special teams coordinator John L. Smith (Weber State) have taken head coaching positions, while defensive coordinator Willy Robinson resigned. … Kansas State will be trying to win its first bowl game since 2002. … A victory would give the Wildcats 11 victory, tying the school record.