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All selections, analysis and thoughts will be posted on the Bowl Express Thread
SPOOKY EXPRESS BOWLING FOR DOLLARS SELECTION AND ANALYSIS THREAD Cotton Bowl
Arkansas vs. Kansas State
Friday, January 6, 8:00 pm
The Cotton Bowl has kind of fallen off the big bowl radar in recent years, which is too bad considering it's got a lot more tradition than most other bowls. For Instance, Alabama's Tommy Lewis stepping off the bench to lay out Rice's Dicky Moegle in the 1954 game; all those great Southwestern Conference teams; Joe Montana leading Notre Dame back vs. Houston in '79; those early New Year's Day kickoffs, to go along with your favorite hair of the dog. All good stuff. But the Cotton Bowl doesn’t have that overrated BCS tie-in, it's not played on New Year's Day anymore, and it's not even played at the Cotton Bowl. How can you play the Cotton Bowl somewhere other than the Cotton Bowl? But I think the Cotton Bowl lucked out this year with a very good matchup between two highly-ranked and fairly local teams; the 10-2 Arkansas Razorbacks, who were once ranked No. 3 this season, and the 10-2 Kansas State Wildcats, a pleasant surprise this season under their old-school coach.
Arkansas returned 13 starters this year from a team that went 10-3 and nearly rallied to beat Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl last year. But the Hogs had one big hole to fill this season, at quarterback, after Ryan Mallett left for the pros. Fortunately, junior Tyler Wilson has stepped in and performed well, leading Arkansas to its second-straight 10-win season. The Hogs opened an easy 3-0 this season, but then got skinned at Alabama, 38-14. The following week, though, in maybe the most important half of football they played this year, the Razorbacks rallied from down 35-17 to beat Texas A&M, 42-38, sparking a seven-game winning streak in which they also knocked off ranked teams in Auburn and South Carolina. Going into its regular-season finale Arkansas had climbed to the No. 3 spot in the BCS rankings. And the Hogs jumped out to a 14-0 lead on top-ranked LSU, bringing on fleeting dreams of a rematch with Alabama in the BCS title game. Alas, it was not meant to be, as the Tigers then scored 41 of the next 44 points, and Arkansas fell, 41-17. So the only two teams the Hogs have lost to this season are playing in the national championship game.
It's taken K State three seasons to go from five wins to 10 in their second go-around under head coach Bill Snyder. This season the Wildcats also returned 13 starters from a team that went 7-6 last year, losing a minor bowl game to Syracuse. Kansas State also had to replace its starting quarterback, but the Cats also found a capable replacement in big Collin Klein. K State was picked by most “experts” to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12 this year. But the Wildcats started 7-0, with wins at Miami and at home over Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech, and nearly broke into the Top 10. The 'Cats then led Oklahoma 17-14 in the second quarter, only to have the Sooners score 44 unanswered points, handing K State its first loss of this season. The Wildcats then put on a valiant effort as a 20-point underdog at Oklahoma State, and had three shots to tie the game right at the end, but lost, 52-45.
Arkansas under head coach Bobby Petrino likes to move the ball through the air. The Hogs are averaging 308 yards per game passing this season, 138 yards rushing. The Wildcats, meanwhile, move it mostly on the ground, and mostly with Klein.
So this matchup looks like one team that likes to throw the ball vs. another team that has trouble defending the pass; and one team that likes to run the ball vs. a team that has problems stopping the run. It sounds like fun, and maybe worth a play on the ‘over’. Arkansas is fun to watch, throwing the ball all over the place, and its only two losses this season are to 'Bama and LSU. But we've been big Coach Snyder fans for years, most memorably when his upstart Wildcats upset the hell out of No. 1 Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game. That being said, Arkansas wins this game by two touchdowns and no matter how many ou are giving up this game should be a no brainer all the way unless someone opens the back door.