Cotton Bowl 2012: Arkansas Tops Kansas State 29-16

The No. 8 Kansas State Wildcats take on the No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl on Friday, January 6th in Dallas.

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Razorbacks must keep Klein in check

The Cotton Bowl is tonight and that means that bowl season is nearly over for the Big 12. The conference is already 6-1 in its seven bowl games and they could add a very impressive seventh win tonight against the Arkansas Razorbacks as the Kansas State Wildcats aim for a Cotton Bowl win. If they're going to pull it off, Collin Klein has to have a big night.


More from SB Nation: 2013 Cotton Bowl coverage | Cotton Bowl 2013 game stream

The K-State quarterback has been key all season to the entire offense. He's thrown for 12 touchdowns but ran for another 26 and he's a threat both ways if the Razorbacks play him incorrectly one way or the other. That places a pressure on the entirety of the defense to respect all of Klein's skills. David Ubben of ESPN says that he's the key to tonight's game.

Ubben writes, "Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. He's the guy that makes everything run for Kansas State's offense. The Wildcats go as he goes. He's improved as a passer throughout the season, and with his legs as the offense's primary threat, it opens up easier throws down the field. Arkansas' defense has to make sure he's contained at all times, and make sure it tackles well. He's proved how tough he is to bring down all season, and Arkansas will find out just how difficult it can be tonight."

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Who will win the 2012 Cotton Bowl?

The Big 12 has already won six of its seven bowl games so far this bowl season and the cherry on top of an already outstanding year-end dessert would be the Cotton Bowl win over the “third” SEC power Arkansas. The Kansas State Wildcats head to Cowboys Stadium for tonight’s premiere match-up and the Razorbacks are considered the favorite — a role the Wildcats have been used to all season. Yet at least one writer, ESPN’s David Ubben, sees the Wildcats for what they can really do and believes they can do it one more time.


More from SB Nation: 2013 Cotton Bowl coverage | Cotton Bowl 2013 game stream

Ubben writes, “I’ll take the upset in this one. I’ve had a bead on the Wildcats all season, and I think Kansas State gets enough stops and the grinding running game frustrates an Arkansas defense that isn’t strong enough to stop it. Since picking the Wildcats to lose by 14 to Baylor all the way back on Oct. 1, I’ve picked every Kansas State game correctly, including correctly picking them to win as an underdog four times. Let’s make it five. College football’s other Honey Badger at LSU gave Arkansas fits. Tonight will make it two.”

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Cotton Bowl 2012: Collin Klein Of Kansas State Compared To Tim Tebow

While it means another thing entirely for the pro game, a comparison to Tim Tebow in the college game is a compliment of the highest order. As one of the best college football players of all time, Tebow carried the Florida Gators to the national championship. Collin Klein, the Kansas State quarterback, has similar abilities to Tebow, says George Schroeder.

"Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is not fast, but he's big and very effective as a runner," Schroeder writes. "He's not an exceptionally accurate passer, but when the Wildcats absolutely have to have it, Klein somehow comes through. There might not be an offensive player in college football who is more valuable to his team. If this reminds you of anyone, well, sure. The inevitable comparison is to Tim Tebow, starting with on-field similarities and continuing to background.

"Like Tebow, Klein was homeschooled. Like Tebow, he is outspoken about his devout Christian faith. "You can certainly see some comparisons there," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "The size and the strength, the ability to break tackles, the ability to win games in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line. The ability to make big throws when the game is on the line. He is a really, really good football player."

Klein might have a shot at a coming out party tomorrow night against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. It should make for a very entertaining game for two teams wanting some national respect and the chance to step out from the shadows of their conference rivals like Alabama and Oklahoma. A prime bowl game allows for such entrances.

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SEC Or Big 12: Cotton Bowl 'Will Not Tell Which League Is Better' With Arkansas And Kansas State Involved

The Big 12 is 6-1 in its bowl season over these last few weeks, bringing up a conversation about conference dominance since the SEC represents both final teams in the National Championship contest. Some voters say that Oklahoma State deserves some first place consideration if LSU loses to Alabama. Perhaps that’s the case, perhaps not. But it does bring up a bigger discussion about the SEC versus the Big 12: which one is the better conference.

It’s also something brought up by the shift in conferences by Missouri and Texas A&M. Both schools left the Big 12 for the “greener pastures” of the SEC and were replaced by TCU and West Virginia. The SEC has the elite opportunities that both schools are seeking and yet the Big 12 has done nothing but win nearly every bowl game this off-season besides Iowa State, and it’s clear that the teams top to bottom are better in the Big 12.

The Cotton Bowl, however, is not the right thermometer for measuring head to head impact, writes David Ubben of ESPN.

“It’s a great game, but unfortunately, it’s not enough this year,” writes Ubben. "More regular-season matchups between the two leagues might settle this, but for now, we’re left to what is essentially chance each year in Dallas, an opportunity to meet and decide annually which is better. The Big 12’s been unable to crack the national title game the past two seasons while the SEC has racked up six consecutive national championships.

“Two teams that have had success as the antithesis of their leagues will meet in this year’s Cotton Bowl. It could be a classic. But it won’t tell us much about which league is better.”

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Cotton Bowl 2012: Arkansas' Experience At Cowboys Stadium Could Make Difference Early Over Kansas State

The Cotton Bowl is already going to be a spectacle in itself. After all, it’s the greatest bowl game outside of the BCS four (and you could argue this year that it’s bigger than some within it) and it features two top ten teams competing for national recognition in Bobby Petrino’s Arkansas Razorbacks against Bill Snyder’s Kansas State Wildcats. Two storied coaches. Two top programs. But that doesn’t even include the sheer wonder known as Cowboys Stadium.

Simply put, it’s one of the few places a team can play that can actually serve as a distraction. The Star-Telegraph’s Brent Shirley notes this and says that Arkansas’ experience there might come in handy.

“Arkansas will not intimidated by the Cotton Bowl’s massive arena. For three straight years the Razorbacks have played a regular-season, nonconference game against Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium,” writes Shirley, “The Razorbacks, who won all three matchups, are comfortable in Arlington.Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who called Cowboys Stadium another Razorback home site, said the first time a team plays in the venue, it’s nearly impossible to prevent players from staring at the 60-yard-wide video screen that hangs over the field.”

Bill Snyder has likely thought about the same on the Kansas State side of things, however it’s another element entirely to experience Cowboys Stadium firsthand. It should be interesting to watch how the Wildcats take in the first few drives of the Cotton Bowl.

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Cotton Bowl 2012: Arthur Brown Returning For Senior Season To Kansas State

Bill Snyder already has a minor reason to celebrate even before the Cotton Bowl game is played. That’s because junior linebacker Arthur Brown will be returning for his senior season instead of declaring for the NFL Draft.

While his stock would be lower than most who declare early, it’s possible that Brown would still be chosen. Yet he believes the best move for him is to finish his college career at Kansas State.

“I’m confident I will be back,” said Brown. “I feel like it will give me another opportunity to grow as a player and a leader. It will be great for our team for me to come back with all the other guys coming back. No, my decision is to come back and just to be part of the team. I find great value in being part of the team. I’m very team-oriented.”

Brown was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and turned heads with his play this year that included 95 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 interception.

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Cotton Bowl 2012: Arkansas Writer Considers Kansas State 'Middling' Team In Big 12

Even when a team makes it to the top ten, defeats Baylor among several other impressive opponents and lands in the top seven in BCS final rankings, they’re still not respected. That’s the case with the Kansas State Wildcats who are playing against Bobby Petrino’s Arkansas Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl — the most prestigious bowl outside of the BCS four. Yet Bill Snyder’s team is still not taken seriously.

Jim Harris of Arkansas Sports writes
, "So now, we come to this season’s Cotton Bowl, where the BCS standings reveal about as even a bowl matchup as any — next to the national championship game between LSU and Alabama — in No. 6 Arkansas and No. 8 Kansas State. Amazingly, another Hog bowl defeat and the all-time win percentage hits .333.

“We’re not certain the fan base can cotton to such a result. Surely a defeat to a barely-better-than-middling’ Big 12 team with leave a lot worse taste in Razorback fans’ mouths than the 31-26 Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State did last year.”

That “barely better than middling” team took care of Robert Griffin and elevated themselves in a deeply competitive Big 12 to the top despite the lack of respect and five star recruits. Collin Klein is a Heisman candidate for next season in the making and Bill Snyder has his team playing together as well as anyone. It will be interesting to see how Snyder uses their under-the-radar stature in the game against Arkansas.

If anything, this is a chance on a national stage to prove some people wrong.

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Cotton Bowl 2011: Arkansas' Tyler Wilson Going To Cause Problems For Kansas State's Pass Defense

The Cotton Bowl match-up between the Arkansas Razorback and the Kansas State Wildcats is going to involve a match-up of two quarterbacks who could be among the nation's best next season -- assuming that both are returning. That's because it will be the senior season for both Collin Klein and Tyler Wilson, two quarterbacks who could not be any different and yet can both hurt defenses in their own way.

For Wilson, it's his ability to find the open man no matter what opposing defenses throw at him. Ed Aschoff writes, "Tyler Wilson is completing 64.2 percent of his passes when opponents send five or more pass-rushers on a play this season with a plus-eight touchdown-to-interception ratio. Wilson has been outstanding against the blitz when not facing the top three pass efficiency defenses (Alabama, South Carolina and LSU), completing 66.7 percent with no interceptions in 102 attempts. Kansas State enters the Cotton Bowl ranked 73rd in pass efficiency defense."

Wilson on the season is 257 of 407 for a 63.1 completion percentage. He's thrown for 3,422 passing yards and 22 touchdowns against only 6 interceptions.

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Cotton Bowl 2011: Kansas State's Collin Klein Among Best In Red Zone

The Arkansas Razorbacks are well aware that they must pay attention and thus account for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein’s ability to burn them with the rush or the pass. The 6-5 junior threw for 12 touchdowns and ran for another 26, showcasing an amazing ability to continue a drive through the end zone rather than settle for many field goals. It’s that ability that Edward Aschoff says might come into play in the 2011 Cotton Bowl against the Razorbacks.

He writes, “Kansas State has scored a touchdown on 29 of 33 (87.9 pct) goal-to-go situations this season, the 13th-highest percentage in the nation. The Wildcat’s knack for the end zone is built upon quarterback Collin Klein’s legs as he has scored more close touchdowns than any other player in the nation.”

If Klein has a solid Cotton Bowl performance, he’s going to be a natural contender for the Heisman Trophy next season and the buzz will grow even more if K-State can pull off a win.

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Cotton Bowl 2011: Kansas State's Bill Snyder Says Coaching Continuity Helped Player Development

From one year to the next, fans and boosters want university athletics to shift based on the success of the year before. Sometimes that’s not the best move to make since continuity can provide something that a brand new face and regime cannot. That’s the lesson learned by the Kansas State Wildcats this year as they rose in the Big 12 football standings.

“I think they have done a wonderful job,” Snyder said. “That should be pretty obvious. They have done a nice job of bringing players along. From top to bottom, you see guys that have made very consistent improvement throughout the course of the season.

They have gotten fundamentally better and that does not happen if our coaches are not doing a good job of working and teaching. They have been able to put schemes together that have done some very positive things. They have managed their youngsters well, on and off the field.

“We have had a lot of young guys that have received national and Big 12 recognition that probably were not projected at all and that lies in the capacity of their coaches to improve their play. There are quite a few offensive and defensive players of the week, there were four special teams players of the week. We had a number on all-conference teams and a couple guys that were on All-American teams and that comes because their coaches have helped them a great deal.”

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Cotton Bowl 2011: Kansas State's Bill Snyder Says Arkansas Is Strong On All Sides

Ask Bill Snyder what his team has to worry about against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the upcoming Cotton Bowl and he’s likely to say one word: “everything.” It’s clear the Kansas State head football coach has a lot of respect for his opponent as he recently praised the SEC power in a recent interview.

When asked what Arkansas does well, Snyder responded with positive comments all around.

“Anything and everything you can think of," Snyder told the Wichita Eagle. "They have a good kicking game and the best punt returner in the country. They are sound in the things that they do. They run well. They are a fast and physical football team. "Offensively, they can throw it around with the best of them. I think they average 308 yards per game throwing the ball. They have a very good quarterback who handles and manages the game well in addition to throwing the ball as well as he does. As much as they throw it, they are not at all afraid to run it. They seemingly want to be able to run the ball well.

"Defensively, they have been a good football team. They play in a variety of fronts with a lot of movement up front."

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Cotton Bowl 2011: Big 12 Ranked Fourth Among Conference Bowl Chances

Why did the Big 12 get slighted this year compared to other conferences when it came to the year end bowl placement? Certainly Kansas State had a better season than most and ranked No. 7 in the final BCS Rankings, so how do they miss out on a major BCS bowl if they deserved it?

ESPN’s Ryan McGee recently attempted to answer the question of why one conference is favored over another to see who exactly gets the best bowl chances. The Big 12 came out fourth after the SEC, Big Ten and ACC and it’s clearly a frustrating issue as he tells the tale of Nebraska who has succeeded more since leaving the conference:

The Big 12’s problem is the complete opposite of the ACC’s. Its bowl menu is more attractive at the top, but there aren’t enough of them. The Cotton is college football’s finest non-BCS stage and provides a stand-alone prime-time TV slot. The next game on the pecking order is the Alamo. It’s a solid game but can feel like a letdown for a team that was on the cusp of a conference title.

Remember that quote from the Nebraska official? He wasn’t wrong. In 2010, the Huskers won the Big 12 North, lost the conference title game by three points, and went back to the Holiday Bowl for the second consecutive year to play 6-6 Washington. This year, they won one fewer game, finished third in the Big Ten Legends division, and they’ll be playing on New Year’s Day in the Capital One Bowl vs. No. 9 South Carolina.

It’s something that Missouri and Texas A&M might soon prosper from themselves — even if the SEC is a bit tougher on them in some areas, the increased exposure and ties to the SEC could still benefit them more in the long run.

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Cotton Bowl 2011: Officials Say They Were 'Lucky' To Land Kansas State And Arkansas

The word “lucky” is not one that comes to mind if you’re a Kansas State fan. Certainly the Wildcats feel as if they were unlucky, slighted actually, when it comes to the national BCS picture and how they, at No. 7 in the BCS Rankings, were left out in the cold when it came to one of the big bowl games. That does, however, mean that the Cotton Bowl lucked out with their premiere match-up of Arkansas and K-State.

"We’re really lucky," the Cotton Bowl selection committee chairman told the AP. "We were looking at Arkansas really early on, and we were looking at K-State early on, and then we thought we were going to lose them, and then we got them back. We came down to the last second. We didn’t know what was going on until they came out with the BCS."

While the Wildcats will always be able to lodge a legitimate complaint against the BCS for its failure to include KSU in the bigger picture, the Cotton Bowl does present a great match for Bill Snyder to prove the team’s value to a national audience.

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Cotton Bowl 2011: Kansas State Vs. Arkansas Ranks No. 5 On NFP's Bowl Rankings

Coming right after the four major BCS bowls including the National Championship game between LSU and Alabama, the Cotton Bowl featuring the Kansas State Wildcats against the Arkansas Razorbacks ranks No. 5 out of all of the 35 bowl games coming up this bowl season in college football over at the National Football Post. Every year, Dave Miller ranks the games from “strongest to weakest” and puts out his list and K-State lands in a high enough bowl that some respect will still come their way. Still that doesn’t keep them from being slighted.

Miller writes, “Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein is perhaps the most underrated dual-threat signal-caller in the nation, and he’ll be going up against a Razorbacks defense led by coordinator Willy Robinson, who will not be retained next season. Offensively, quarterback Tyler Wilson has seen the Alabama and LSU defenses, so he’ll be ready for Arthur Brown and Co.”

It will be even more intriguing to see if Bill Snyder’s squad will be out to prove something given that they were ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings and yet failed to land one of the top 8 spots. Perhaps a strong performance in the Cotton Bowl will prove something to voters.

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Landing Kansas State And Arkansas Places Cotton Bowl Among 'Winners'

The Kansas State WIldcats can definitely be termed "losers" by anyone surveying the Bowl Season field. They finished among the top teams in the BCS Standings and yet they find themselves left out of the major BCS Bowls. But ESPN's Alex McGee says that makes the Cotton Bowl one of the biggest "winners" since they're receiving a very impressive K-State team along with the Arkansas Razorbacks in their match-up -- making it as good as nearly any of the BCS bowl games.

"I have long maintained that the Cotton Bowl looks, feels and should indeed be a BCS bowl," writes McGee. "No one provides a bigger prime-time stage, no one has a nicer facility, and no one does a better job of piecing together great matchups. This year, the Jerry Dome will host the Kansas State Wildcats, who were jobbed out of a Sugar Bowl berth, and the Arkansas Razorbacks, whose only two losses came to the top two teams in the land."

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