Friday January 6, 2012 college football fans will witness what happens between vastly contrasting styles of play when the Arkansas Razorbacks take on the Kansas State Wildcats in the 2012 Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
The matchup seem more like a lesson in physics from Archimedes or Albert Einstein than a college football game; a slow moving Kansas State offense against a bending Razorback run defense and a high powered Arkansas offense against a spacious Wildcat pass defense.
All of the elements add up to what promises to be one of the best bowl games of the year.
KansasStaterelies on a solid ground attack led by Junior quarterback Collin Klein while the Razorbacks are led by their fluid passing Junior quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Klein set the single season Wildcat rushing touchdown record this season racking up 26 scores along with 1,099 rushing yards. Should Klein score one more rushing touchdown against the Razorbacks he will tie former Texas running back Ricky Williams for the all-time single season Big 12 record.
Klein’s 1,099 total rushing yards was fourth best in the Big 12 and his 91.58 rushing yards per game was the 39th best rushing yard per game average in Division 1-A.
Sophomore scat back John Hubert was second on the Wildcat team with 933 rushing yards, seventh best in the Big 12. The 5’7”, 185 pound running back scored three rushing touchdowns and proved to be dangerous as a pass catching option out of the backfield amassing 23 receptions for 193 yards with one touchdown on the season.
A deceptive running option for the Wildcats had been wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Lockett, a freshman from Tulsa, Oklahoma, rushed 10 times for 110 yards before a lacerated kidney ended his season.
Will KSU head coach Bill Snyder find another speedy option on reverses or option running plays to replace Lockett?
Klein threw for 1,745 yards in 2012 ranking him No. 8 in the Big 12; per team totals KSU was last in the Big 12 in total passing yards.
Klein’s average passing yards per game (145.42) plus his average rushing yards per game (91.58) ranks him 45th in the nation in total yards per game (237).
Chris Harper is the leading receiver for KSU. He caught 39 passes for 536 yards with five touchdowns. Tramaine Thompson is second on the team with 18 catches for 281 yards with one score.
The Wildcat offense ranked No. 96 in Division 1-A averaging 343.42 yards per game.
In comparison to Kansas State, Arkansas’ offense operates at the speed of light. The Razorback’s offense ranked No. 25 in the nation averaging 445.83 yards per game.
Arkansashead coach Bobby Petrino relied on Tyler Wilson to lead his pass happy attack in 2012 after Ryan Mallett departed for the NFL at the end of last season.
Wilson, a first-year starter, is averaging 285 passing yards per game, 21st best in college football.
Wilson’s favorite target has been Senior wide receiver Jarius Wright. Wright is first in the SEC in receiving touchdowns (11) and second in the SEC in total receiving yards (1,029).
Wright only needs four catches against KSU to tie Ja’Rick Rogers (Tennessee) for the SEC lead (67) in total receptions and he is 12 receiving yards away from passingRogers(1,040) for the SEC lead in total receiving yards.
Wilson has done a great job of spreading the ball around within the offense. Joe Adams is No. 5 in the SEC in total receiving yards (630) with 49 receptions, Cobi Hamilton is No. 12 (516) with 31 receptions, and tight end Chris Gragg has 40 catches for 492 total yards.
The Razorback running game has been by committee for most of the 2011 season. Junior running back Ronnie Wingo Jr. was the early season starter for the Hogs while Dennis Johnson (hamstring) and Broderick Green (knee) recovered from injuries.
Wingo accumulated 280 of his 440 rushing yards in the first six games of the season before giving way to Johnson. Since Dennis Johnson’s return to full-time work, he has rushed for 637 yards with three touchdowns ranking No. 12 in the SEC.
Johnson and Wingo are both threats in the passing game. Johnson has caught 22 passes for 253 and Wingo has 19 receptions for 183 yards.
Both backs give way to Senior Broderick Green on short yardage and goal line situations. Green has five rushing touchdowns on 61 attempts.
For the season the Hogs are ranked No. 81 in Division 1-A in total rushing yards with 1,657. Arkansas ranks No. 25 in total offense averaging 445.83.
Kansas State’s running attack versus Arkansas’ run defense: The Razorback run defense has been a dark matter during the season. The Hogs fought through injuries to four starters (Bequette, Winston, Wright, and Madison) from theAlabamagame to the Tennessee game finishing the season allowing 174.33 rushing yards per game.
One of the weak areas for the Hogs has been their ability to stop running quarterbacks. Opposing quarterbacks have typically run against the Razorbacks on broken plays or resulting from excellent downfield coverage.
Klein runs on every play not just on passing plays gone wrong.
Can the Hogs stop a “Wildcat” quarterback?
Arkansas’ passing attack versusKansasState’s pass defense: In KSU’s two losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State the pass defense allowed Landry Jones (OU) and Brandon Weeden (OSU) to pass for over 500 yards. Jones threw five touchdowns and Weeden threw four on the Wildcats.
The Wildcats secondary is led by undersized junior college transfer cornerback Nigel Malone. Malone, listed at 5’10”, 175 pounds, led the team in interceptions with seven ranking first in the Big 12.
In a pass first league KSU only managed 18 sacks on the season. Will Snyder’s defense be able to force the dynamicWilsoninto turnovers?
Wilson has 22 passing touchdowns on the season with six interceptions. He has faced six pass defenses ranked in the Top 25 – No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 South Carolina, No. 8 LSU, No. 13 Tennessee, No. 19 Vanderbilt, and No. 22 Ole Miss.
The Hogs offensive line has been a wave of missed assignments in pass blocking schemes during the 2011 season. In 12 games they have surrendered 25 sacks, tied for 71st in Division 1-A, but Wilson has been hit or knocked down repeatedly after releasing the ball.
If the Wildcats hope to slow down the Razorback passing game they will have to attack the offensive line with blitzes and stunts throughout the game.
Total Offense: Arkansas No. 27, Kansas State 96
Scoring Offense: Arkansas No. 14,Kansas State 30
Rushing Offense: Arkansas No.79, Kansas State 29
Passing Offense: Arkansas No. 13, Kansas State 109
Total Defense: Arkansas 52, Kansas State 74
Scoring Defense: Arkansas 37, Kansas State 69
Rushing Defense: Arkansas 80, Kansas State 39
Passing Defense: Arkansas 26, Kansas State 105
Net Punting: Arkansas46,Kansas State 50
Punt Returns: Arkansas 15, Kansas State55
Kickoff Returns: Arkansas 32, Kansas State 9
Turnover Margin: Arkansas 59, Kansas State 5
On paper the Cotton Bowl pits an accelerating offense opposed by a collision-grind it out offense. Both defenses will be challenged by the other’s offense.
When Arkansas faced a similar pass defense in Texas A&M, ranked No. 109 to K State’s 105, Tyler Wilson threw for a school record 510 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
WhenKansasStatefaced similar passing offenses toArkansas, they lost both games- Oklahoma 58-17 and Oklahoma State 42-45.
Snyder’s Wildcat team has one defeat against a team ranked at the time of their game- No. 15 Baylor.
Petrino has led the Razorbacks against five ranked teams, three in the Top 10 at the time of the game. The Hogs record is 3-2 against those teams- Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina, and LSU.
Common 2011 Opponent: Texas A&M
Kansas State won 53-50
Arkansas won 42-38
Field goal attempts:
Kansas State is 17-21, with four misses on kicks between 30-49 yards
Arkansas is 18-24, with five misses on kicks between 30-49 yards
Arkansas punter Dylan Breeding leads the SEC in punting averaging 45.2 yards per punt
Kansas State punter Ryan Doerr is No. 8 in the Big 12 in punting averaging 39.9 yards per punt
Bowl games can showcase the talented teams from the regular season or they can show that the month plus long layoff between games proves to be too much of a distraction for some teams. All coaches have to fight the inertia, rust, players facing graduation, and players looking forward to the NFL to keep their teams focused. Will the Razorbacks or Wildcats face this problem in the Cotton Bowl?
Both teams can play the disrespect card of not being in a BCS Bowl Game. Kansas State was outright snubbed by the Sugar Bowl because of a thought lack of a traveling fan base. While the Razorbacks momentum was stopped by the BCS rule of no more than two BCS teams per conference forcing them to yield toAlabamaand LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.
Arkansas’ offense is battle tested in a defense first conference. Texas, ranked No. 12 in total defense, is the only Top 50 defense the Wildcats have faced this year. Oklahoma is the second best defense they played- No. 55.
Klein will keep drives alive with his feet as he has done all season long. He was beat up at the end of the regular season. A month off should prove to be a big advantage for the Wildcats’ offense and Klein’s ability to produce within the offense.
The big question is can Snyder control the game clock with his running game and limit the Razorback’s offensive possessions?
The game will come down to Bobby Petrino’s offense. If the Razorback offense comes ready to play their potential energy should prove to be too much for the Wildcat pass defense.
Arkansas 38, Kansas State 28
Cotton Bowl Game Time Information
The Cotton Bowl will be played January 6, 2012, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Game time is 8:00 p.m. EST on FOX.
FOX Broadcast Team
Gus Johnson – Play-by-play
Charles Davis – Color
Tim Brewster – Sideline Reporter