No. 8 Kansas State Wildcats (10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS), Friday January 6th, 2011. 8:00PM EST, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Cowboys Stadium Arlington, T.X.
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: KSU +7.5/Ark -7.5
Over/Under Total: 63
The 2012 AT&T Cotton Bowl may present the most intriguing postseason match-up out of all the non BCS Bowl Games when the no. 8 Kansas State Wildcats square off with the no. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks inside Cowboys Stadium on January 6th. Both Kansas State and Arkansas have had tremendous seasons this year. Kansas State had a breakout year following a 7-6 record in 2010 and reached the 10 wins mark for the first time since 2004. The Wildcats overcame a talented Big 12 schedule to prove they are among the nation’s elite despite playing the underdog role for most of the year. However, the Wildcats will get one last chance to play that role again when they take on a talented Arkansas team as 7.5 underdogs inside Cowboys Stadium.
Speaking of that talented Razorbacks bunch, Arkansas has been as solid as any team in America this year. The Razorbacks sport an identical 10-2 record just like K-State but perhaps a more impressive 10-2 mark if that is possible. The reason for that theory is because Arkansas’s only two losses this year were dropped to Alabama and LSU who both are playing in the BCS National Championship Game. Outside of those two losses, Arkansas’s body of work is rather impressive. The Razorbacks knocked off 3 top 15 opponents this year and they have also sported one of the best overall offenses in the country.
The key for the Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl will be to attack the Wildcats with their talented passing attack. In the Wildcats’ only two losses this year, Kansas St. fell to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while giving up over 500 yards passing in each of those games. This Razorbacks offense can move the football through the air extremely well and has averaged 307 yards (13th in NCAA) per game so far this year. QB Tyler Wilson has been rock solid completing 63% passing for 3,422 yards with 22 touchdowns and just 6 picks. Wilson simply does a great job of minimizing the mistakes and getting the ball into the hands of the Razorbacks’ playmakers.
Luckily for Wilson that task is normally not too difficult considering Arkansas has one of the most talented receiving groups in all of football. WR Jarius Wright leads the offense with 1,029 yards and 11 scores on the year. Wright has averaged near 17 yards per catch, but he is just one of many guys that can make big plays. Both wide outs Joe Adams and Cobi Hamilton have tremendous big play potential. Adams is an experienced veteran that has a knack for making big plays and Hamilton is equally as dangerous. The key for the Razorbacks will be to get all of their guys in the passing game going and keep pressure on a rather suspect Kansas State secondary.
For Kansas State if you looked at their statistics on paper, you would never guess the Wildcats are a top 10 team. The Wildcats rank 96th in total offense averaging just 343 yards and 73rd in total defense allowing 398 yards per game. However, this Kansas State team simply finds ways to win which has been a theme all year.
One area the Wildcats do excel is in the rushing game. The Wildcats sport the 28th best rushing offense in America averaging just less than 200 yards per game. In fact, it is the Kansas State run game that has been the key ingredient to their success this year. The Wildcats have been able to slow other high power offenses from the Big 12 down by keeping their offenses off the field. Kansas State has accomplished that feat from sustaining long drives with the help of their rushing offense.
QB Collin Klein leads the team in rushing with 1,099 yards and an amazing 26 touchdowns on the ground. Klein is not your prototypical passer, but he can really do damage with his feet. Outside of Klein, the Wildcats also have the strong rushing support of running back John Hubert. Hubert has rushed for 933 yards already this season and has a good shot at becoming the 2nd 1,000 yard rusher on the team if he can have a solid game against the Razorbacks.
Since Klein is not a big time passing threat, everything with the Kansas State offense relies on their rushing success. When both Klein and Hubert can keep the chains moving by running the football, it will eventually open up some opportunities for the passing game to make plays where they normally would not. When those plays occur, WR Chris Harper is usually on the good end of things. However, the ground attack has to get rolling first and foremost.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Arkansas’s defense gives up 174 yards (80th in NCAA) per game on the ground and the Wildcats defense gives up 267 yards (104th in NCAA) per game through the air. Therefore both offenses’ strengths play right into the hands of their enemy’s weakness which should lead to a ton of offense in this game. The Wildcats have reached the over in 6 of their last 7 games while Arkansas has reached the over in their last 5 games. I’m staying with the trend. Take the over 63.
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