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2011 Cotton Bowl: Kansas State Has Chance To Change Perception Of Big 12

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

As soon as it was reported that Kansas State was snubbed by the Sugar Bowl committee for the at-large spot in favor of Virginia Tech, everyone around the country seemed to be on the same page. Well of course, maybe not in Virginia. But every analyst mentioned Kansas State and Boise State as two teams that had legitimate gripes against not being chosen to play in the BCS bowl game in New Orleans. But for me personally, that's where it stopped. I know that the BCS committee looks at money as the overriding factor in their decision-making and I will try and not do the same thing when looking at the positives and negatives about playing Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

Besides money and BCS notoriety, Kansas State should be happy in the Cotton bowl on a bigger stage against a better opponent in Arkansas than they would have had against Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. While many people may view the Cotton Bowl as a lesser bowl than the Sugar bowl, that's only because of money and we aren't looking at it from that angle remember? The build up around the game between Kansas State and Arkansas will be much greater than a game against Michigan because the two teams are better. The No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks against the No. 8 Kansas State Wildcat, or the No. 13 Michigan Wolverines against the No. 11 Virginia Tech Hokies. It's going to have the publicity of a BCS-type game because it's a better game than the Sugar bowl, and the build up around the two higher-seeded teams will cause an anticipation for this game that the Sugar Bowl cannot match.

All season long we've heard the bragging from the SEC conference on how much better they are as a whole than the Big 12. And I'll give them LSU and Alabama as the two best teams in the country, despite wanting to see Oklahoma State have a chance against LSU in the national championship. But when you want to look at a conference from top to bottom you have to take into account the success of the teams in the second-tiers. For the SEC that's Arkansas. They finished with losses to only No.1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama and finished the season ranked 6th in the BCS, two spots ahead of Kansas State. Kansas State fell to only No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 3 Oklahoma State. 

If Kansas State can travel to Jerry's World in Dallas and beat Arkansas on a national stage, it will propel the Big 12 conference as a more legitimate football conference than had been given credit for in the past. Rather than playing the "woulda, coulda, shoulda's" with Oklahoma State and LSU, let's take Kansas State and send them up against Arkansas to see if the second-place team in the Big 12 can beat the third-best team in the SEC. So while many across the country and especially those in Manhattan that wanted to see K-State earn the right to play in a BCS game, there's more on the line in the Cotton bowl for the Wildcats in the big picture. 

The build up around this game will be the perceived powerhouse SEC conference and the 'little brother' who is thought to be the kid who just wants to take his ball and go home. Collin Klein hasn't flinched yet this year and no matter how much national analysts want to consider the Big 12 a second-rate conference to the SEC, they aren't the ones who are going to have to deal with trying to take that ball from Klein. That's going to be up to Arkansas. It's the last major bowl game of the season before the BCS National Championship, which some people aren't excited to see the rematch of LSU-Alabama, and so the spotlight will be on the Wildcats and Razorbacks.

Throw in Oklahoma State taking on the best of the west in Stanford in the Fiesta bowl and the Big 12 has two crucial games against other top-ranked teams to show how good the Big 12 conference really is right now. These two games will help shape the perception of the Big 12 conference for years to come.