AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 6, 8 p.m. ET, FOX
We've heard since sometime last year that if Arkansas were in any division other than the SEC West, it would have the chance to play for championships. After all, Arkansas had the great misfortune of facing three of the four other ten-win teams in the SEC, and went 1-2 against LSU, Alabama and South Carolina.
Playing for a Cotton Bowl championship against a 10-win Kansas State team will have to do. It's really not that bad an option; at 7-2 in the Big 12, the Wildcats were the conference runners-up to Oklahoma State. A win there would come close to validating the idea of Arkansas as a national power with bad luck. It would also help the SEC's bowl record, ensuring that only two of the conference's nine teams in bowl games lost to a team from outside the conference.
The problem is that the game looks like an unpredictable barnburner. This is not a classic match-up of strength on strength; in fact, it's more of a clash between strengths and weaknesses. Kansas State is terrible on defense in terms of passer efficiency -- they rank seventh even in the air-happy Big 12 -- which is of course exactly where a Bobby Petrino offense thrives. Arkansas, meanwhile, is pretty weak when it comes to containing the run -- despite winning seven games by 10 or more points. That makes the matchup a favorable one for Kansas State, which gets 56 percent of its offensive yardage on the run.
On the other hand, you can argue that Kansas State isn't really that intimidating a 10-win team. After all, the Wildcats defeated just one BCS team by more than a single score all year -- and that was Kansas. When it comes to major offensive and defensive statistics, they don't really do anything particularly well. It could be that the Wildcats are more lucky than good.
If that's the case, the game is going to be a rout. After all, Arkansas has come this far on bad luck, and should be able to stop a team that's winning based solely on good luck. Even so, it will take a while for the Razorbacks to pull away.
Arkansas 45, Kansas State 35