Liberty Bowl Preview: Razorbacks Vs. Wildcats


It feels like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away since the Razorbacks have played a football game. (writer’s note: Yes, that was a “Star Wars” reference. Also, you should go see it. The Force is strong in that film.) However, the wait is nearly over, as the Hogs are set to face the Kansas State Wildcats this Saturday. The Hogs are looking to improve on their record from last year, and get to the 8 win mark to finish a very strong surge in the last half of the season. On the other side of the coin, K-State is looking to get their 7th win of the year, and end the season with a winning record.

Arkansas comes into the game as a 13 point favorite over the Wildcats, and looking on paper that number could have been even higher. However, K-State has had just shy of a month to game plan and scheme for the Hogs. While the 6-6 record may not be eye-popping, they had a few REALLY close games with some very good teams. The Wildcats loss to Baylor, OK State, and TCU by a combined 16 points. They also finished the year with three straight wins. So, I’m sure the Razorback coaching staff is taking them very seriously.

Kansas State and Arkansas actually has a very similar play style, both like to keep a balanced attack, but lean on the run to open the pass. That’s not really a surprise though, as Coach B actually was the K-State defensive coordinator from 2002-2003 under Coach Bill Synder. However, while K-State may have done it first, Arkansas has done it better this season.

Kansas State doesn’t even clock into the top 100 in total yards a game, with a modest average of around 340 a game. Their rushing attack is spear-headed by QB Joe Hubener and RB Charles Jones, they have combined for 1,264 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground this year, with Hubener having 13 of those touchdowns. Compare that to Alex Collins who has just shy of 1,400 yards and 17 TD’s this year by himself.

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Through the air, QB Joe Hubener has had a very modest 1,837 passing yards with 9 TD’s and 9 interceptions on the year, while completing only 47% of his passes. Hogs QB Brandon Allen however, has lit up defenses especially in the last half of the season, with 3,125 yards and 29 TD’s to only 7 Int’s and an impressive 65% completion percentage.

It should be noted however, that while Kansas State’s offense has struggled some during the season, they have been red-hot in the Red Zone. Converting 96% of the time inside the 20’s, which is the best in the country.

On the defensive side of the ball, these teams once again are very similar, both teams have tough run defense but a soft pass defense. Arkansas brings a top 15 run defense into the game allowing only 117 yards a game on the ground, and held both LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Alabama’s Derrick Henry to under 100 rushing yards, which is no small feat. K-State while not as decorated brings in a defense that allows 168 yards a game on the ground, which puts them in the upper half of the country.

The pass defenses however, are another story. Both rank toward the bottom of the country giving up 275+ yards through the air, and both allowing a not so impressive 65%+ completion percentage to the other team. So, maybe expect the Wildcats to air it out more than they usually do, to try to take advantage of that. A key match up to watch will be the stout Wildcat pass rush who rank in the top 25 in sack percentage, versus a Razorbacks O-Line who rank just outside the top 10 in pass protection.

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On paper, it looks like the Hogs win just about every major category, however, there’s a reason they play the game. You’d be crazy to think a Bill Snyder coached team is going to come out intimidated and under prepared. You don’t get to Coach Snyder’s level of renown by luck, he’s a heck of a ball coach, and will have his Wildcats ready. While I think the Hogs take this one, it maybe a closer game than some fans hope for.

The Liberty Bowl kicks off at 2:20 p.m. CST on ESPN. Also, good news Hog fans! It’s supposed to be a warm and toasty 48 degree’s that day, so we won’t have another “Frozen Bowl” like in 2010.

Woo Pig