This Friday night the K-State Wildcats will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2012 Cotton Bowl and for a good portion of the national media it will be their first and only opportunity to watch the Wildcats. Right or wrong how Bill Snyder's team performs will leave a lasting impression heading into the offseason on not only fans and media members but possibly players as well.
If the Wildcats come out and are torched by Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks the storyline will likely be that K-State got lucky this year but in the end couldn't compete against a mighty team from the great SEC. Not only will that be the perception immediately after but an ugly loss could cause the Wildcats preseason national ranking next year to be a few spots lower than if the Wildcats win or even hang tough. If you think it's too early to start worrying about something as trivial as a preseason national ranking then I suggest you go talk with a Boise State fan sometime.
Now if K-State can come out and exploit a somewhat porous Arkansas run defense and be the more physical team this opens up many possibilities for K-State. They would likely go into the offseason knowing that they would definitely be a Top Ten team when next season polls come around.
The key question is how would the Wildcats respond to the role of being the favorites with a target on their backs?
This past offseason, Bill Snyder could play the underdog role which he and his teams seem to thrive in. The Wildcats were picked to finish 8th in the Big 12 but they came out and simply won ballgames and continually rose in the rankings even though they were constantly being downgraded by opponents, media members and odds makers in Las Vegas.
Even just following the regular season, K-State has already been mentioned directly by incoming KU coach Charlie Weis in his introductory press conference as a specific target to try and take down. Not only will Weis and KU be gunning for them but likely every team on the schedule next year will be fully aware of when the Wildcats come into town.
Will the returning Wildcats players get a big head and not work as hard toward trying to equal another successful season or will they come back vowing to work even harder to stay towards the top of the Big 12 with the likes of OU and Oklahoma State?
While there is a chance that a fall sense of entitlement could creep in to the team, Wildcat fans have to put their trust in Bill Snyder and his staff along with soon to be senior leaders like Arthur Brown on defense and Collin Klein on offense.
The Cotton Bowl and its result will be more than just one simple college football game, it could set the entire tone for how K-State and its players conduct their offseason.