RazOrbaX Hot Points and prediction vs. Kansas State at Cotton Bowl
Growing up in Arkansas in the late fifties and sixties, there was only one bowl game you wanted the Razorbacks to play in: the Cotton Bowl. If Arkansas was playing in the Cotton Bowl, it had won the Southwest Conference championship. The HOGS were ranked in the Top 10. It was an opportunity to begin the New Year in the national spotlight. If Lindsey Nelson was doing the play by play on TV, Arkansas was in the Cotton Bowl, and it was a big deal! With the BCS agreement, the Cotton Bowl has been knocked down slightly. The move to Cowboy Stadium and the coming changes in 2014 to the BCS contract almost assure that the Cotton Bowl will once again be one of THE bowl destinations. Having No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 6 Arkansas does not hurt it this year either.
TIMING-TIMING-TIMING: When the Razorbacks snap the ball Friday night, it will have been 42 days since they battled LSU. You have to feel good about having such a detailed coach as Bobby Petrino running the show, but Arkansas has not started well in big games this year. Petrino did change the practice schedule this year for the bowl game so that the week leading up to playing mirrored, as much as possible with bowl responsibilities, a regular game week. The Arkansas receivers must be on the same page as Tyler Wilson. With the aggressive nature of the KSU secondary, Wilson must be sharp. While he did not throw an interception against Vanderbilt, the ‘Dores should have intercepted at least four in the game. Wilson and the HOG receivers must not let the Wildcats get their hands on the ball.
BE SEC PHYSICAL UP FRONT: Fans of the SEC love to point to the trenches for the biggest difference in SEC teams and all others. This is a game against a quality opponent that the Arkansas offensive line needs to perform like the SEC line it is. Passing teams are usually not known for being physical but this Razorback line has size and athleticism, and it needs to show it on the field Friday night.
DO NOT MISS OPPORTUNITIES: Two years ago, Arkansas took the opening kickoff in the Liberty Bowl and in three crisp plays had the ball at the East Carolina 33-yard line. On play four, Dennis Johnson fumbled and the offense struggled the rest of the game. Last year, Ohio State kicked off into the end zone. From the 20-yard line, Bobby Petrino got the exact defensive alignment he was looking for. Mallett unleashed a deep ball to Joe Adams who had split the safeties. Adams drops the ball and two plays later, Arkansas punts. The Razorbacks cannot afford to let the Wildcats stay in the game by missing scoring opportunities.
HIT THE QB HARD BUT HOLD ON: Collin Klein is a big boy. He has a lot of carries, yards and touchdowns. Arkansas must contain him AND HIT HIM every chance they get. And one more thing to go along with that is WRAP UP. This has been the biggest problem for the HOG defense against a running quarterback. The Razorback defense must not over run and must fill the proper gaps. The linebackers must come up big!
LOCK DOWN THE RECEIVERS: The Wildcats are ranked 109th out of 120 in passing. That does not mean they are not dangerous. Everything will be a play-action fake and the Razorback corners and safeties must play their responsibility. KSU will take a couple of shots deep so Arkansas must play the ball when it is in the air. The HOGS must not give such a cushion that third and 5 is not an easy pitch and catch.
BE SEC PHYSICAL UP FRONT 2: After 12 games, it is time for the Arkansas defensive tackles to be the MEN that Razorback Nation expects. They must get a push and they must use their superior quickness to create havoc in the KSU backfield. The more they do that, the more the linebackers can clean up. If the front four can make the K State running game falter and force the Wildcats to pass, it will be a good day for the HOGS.
SPECIAL TEAMS: If the coverage teams do a good job, Arkansas will be in a great position. The Razorback kicking and return games have been awesome this season. Joe Adams gets one more game to take one to the house, and if KSU kicks away from him, Marquel Wade can take it the distance. Zach Hocker and Dylan Breeding need to continue their kicking excellence.
By now you are tired of hearing about the Razorbacks' dismal bowl record, and I will not rehash it. This game is going to go one of two ways: a nail biter or a blowout. Of the SEC teams, so far only South Carolina has been comfortable in the fourth quarter. Arkansas is due to have the breaks in a bowl game go its way. If the Razorbacks play to their potential (that we have seen on occasion) for four quarters, I am leaning toward the latter. An Arkansas victory will give the SEC four teams with at least 11 wins. I will go with one of my best Cotton Bowl memories (Jan. 1, 1976 vs. Georgia) for this score: Arkansas 31, Kansas State 10.