There were a few shaky minutes at the beginning of the third quarter of the Cotton Bowl when it looked like Kansas State might be able to make a game of it. Arkansas was leading 19-9 when Kansas State took the ball after the half and drove it 60 yards for the score. It was suddenly 19-16, and it looked like Bill Snyder's team might be gearing up for another one of its rallies.
But on its second drive of the half, Arkansas took the ball 58 yards on 11 plays to take a 26-16 lead, and the Wildcats wouldn't score again as Arkansas clinched its first 11-win season in 34 years. Were it not for the misfortune of having to play Alabama and LSU, the Razorbacks might very well be undefeated.
As it is, Arkansas has a very real chance to give the SEC West three teams in the Top 5. Oklahoma State and Oregon will still be there in the coaches' poll, and it remains to be seen whether the Hogs move past Boise State after the Broncos' waxing of Arizona State. The AP poll's inclusion of Southern Cal in its rankings makes the task even harder in that survey. But regardless of anything else, the SEC will have four teams in the Top 10 and has an outside chance of having the majority of the spots in the Top 7 in both polls. All four of those teams -- LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and South Carolina -- have 11 wins.
Of course, there are questions about some of those wins, which is going to happen anytime four teams go a combined 24-1 against the rest of their conference. But consider this: Only one of the teams in the LSU-Alabama-Arkansas-South Carolina grouping lost a game to a team outside of that group. None of those teams lost to a team outside of the SEC -- despite playing seven out-of-conference games against BCS opponents with winning records. Between them, they beat the champions of the Big East, Pac-12 and ACC. Three of the four teams defeated at least two BCS non-conference opponents with winning records at the end of the season -- the lone exception being Alabama, which defeated a Penn State team that finished the season above .500 but will face LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.
Is the SEC a bit top-heavy this year? Absolutely. If you take the four 11-win teams and Georgia, you could make the case that there are no other above-average teams in the conference. But the top of the SEC is very good. Arkansas provided us with a reminder of that Friday night, in case anyone was inclined to forget.