CONTEST CLOSED: AT&T Cotton Bowl: Game Prediction

Photo credit: UA Athletics
The Arkansas Razorback football squad is set to take on Kansas State in the 76th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas this Friday, Jan. 6.

Update: The final score was Arkansas 29, Kansas State 16. At only 3 points off, both JennyD and Kimmy tied in the prediction contest with each guessing 31-17. After a spin through the Random.Org number generator, JennyD is our final winner. We’ll be in touch soon. Congrats!

Happy New Year, Razorback fans! It’s 2012, the Hogs are 10-2 (ranked No. 6 in the BCS) and they’re set to play in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. The Hogs ended the regular season with a deflating 41-17 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge. But since that loss and the announcement of the NCAA bowl game matchups, Arkansas’ football staff has gone through a fairly major facelift.

On Dec. 5, offensive coordinator Garrick McGee left Arkansas to become head coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and special teams coordinator John L. Smith left to lead Weber State. One day later, Willy Robinson resigned as the Hogs’ defensive coordinator.

For those counting, that was all three major coordinators at Arkansas leaving their positions — and all left immediately.

No one — not even head coach Bobby Petrino — seemed overly concerned. Quickly taking McGee’s post was former Arkansas offensive coordinator (and brother of Coach Petrino), Paul Petrino. Then, on Dec. 9, the Razorbacks announced that Ohio State co-defensive coordinator the hiring of Paul Haynes as the new defensive coordinator. Most recently, defensive ends coach, Steve Caldwell, was promoted to take over special teams coordinator duties. All three coaches have been on the field assisting in game plans and play-calling for this Friday’s bowl game.

The Hogs will take on the Wildcats of Kansas State, who also ended the year 10-2 (ranked No. 8 in the BCS). Head coach Bill Snyder, in his second stint as the Wildcats’ coach, has done an incredible job at re-building the KState program, quickly. Last year the Wildcats finished with a 7-6 record and a close bowl loss to Syracuse to end the season. Finishing with a No. 8 ranking has left a sour taste in the mouths of players and fans alike, who were hoping to play in a BCS bowl. Instead, the Hogs and Wildcats will face off for a potential top five BCS finish and some great momentum heading into next season.

Many analysts are saying that this year’s Cotton Bowl should be one of the post season’s more exciting match ups. Mostly because of Arkansas’ vaulted passing attack and KState’s quarterback Collin Klein. It’s not the arm of Klein that scares opposing defenses (1,745 yards, 12 TDs, 5 INTs, 128 passer rating), it’s his running ability (1,099 yards and 26 — yes, 26 — TDs). Klein’s ability to move the ball on the ground, and in the air, and Snyder’s coaching are major reasons that the Wildcats finished with 10 wins this season.

What’s going to give in this year’s Cotton Bowl?

Offensively: Arkansas will be sporting their 13th ranked passing attack versus the 105th ranked passing defense of Kansas State. Anyone who remembers what Arkansas did to Texas A&M (the 109th ranked passing defense), might be licking their chops much like Tyler Wilson, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton and Chris Gragg surely are. Kansas State’s rushing defense, ranked 39th, isn’t going to be that easy to run against. Coach Petrino knows that a balanced attack is key versus any defense, but the Hogs will gladly throw the ball when given the option. New offensive coordinator Paul Petrino likes to stretch the field more than coach McGee did, so you might expect to see more deep shots than usual. Wilson can be extremely deadly when given enough time in the pocket. If the offensive line can open up holes for Dennis Johnson and provide protection for Wilson, the Hogs should score at ease against KState’s defense.

Defensively: If the Hogs’ offense is built to score, then it might be fair to say that (over the past two seasons) the Hogs’ defense is built to struggle against running quarterbacks. Case(s) in point: Jordan Rodgers (66 yards), Jordan Jefferson (53 yards), Kiehl Frazier (54 yards), Ryan Tannehill (56 yards), Cam Newton (188 yards), Terrell Pryor (115 yards) and Chris Relf (103 yards) all enjoyed big days against the Razorbacks. This game will mark the debut of new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes and will depend on his defense containing Collin Klein in the pocket and for minimal gains when he takes off — and he will take off — Klein averages 24 carries per game. Containing Klein and making Kansas State turn into a passing team would be wonderful for the Hogs as the Wildcats had only THREE 200+ yard passing games this year. Those games were against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Kansas — all ranked worse than 103rd in passing defense. Outside of Klein, KState doesn’t have a lot of playmakers — running back John Hubert has 933 yards and 3 TDs on the season and wide receiver Chris Harper has 536 yards and 5 TDs. Don’t expect any different looks from Haynes’ for the bowl game, but perhaps a better game plan for containing Klein might be in place. If DEs Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright and LBs Jerry Franklin and Alonzo Highsmith can shore up the Wildcat running attack, this game could be over for Kansas State, quickly.

Special Teams: Coach Snyder is a smart man, and there’s more than enough tape on Joe Adams, Dennis Johnson and Marquel Wade, to know NOT to give those guys a chance to return the ball. While the field goal kicking game is nearly an even match, Arkansas has the edge on kickoffs and punting, where the Hogs rank 7th, or better, when kicking the football. Unless some extreme trickery happens, special teams probably won’t be deciding the outcome this time around.

Both teams are great at doing what they do best — Arkansas will throw all over you and Kansas State will unleash the 6’5″ Klein. Will the Wildcat passing defense step up? Or will the Arkansas stiffen against a great running quarterback?

With both teams playing for their 11th win, I expect a hard-fought first half. I don’t think the Hogs will be able to completely shut down Klein, but I don’t expect him to have a career day running the ball, either. The Wildcats might even surprise the Hogs with a better-than-usual passing attack, too. Petrino’s Razorbacks should have little trouble with the Wildcat secondary, and I think the Hogs will be able to run the ball effectively like they did in the second half of the season. Last year the Hogs’ receivers had a bad Sugar Bowl with many dropped passes. This year should be different with Wright and Gragg having big games. Johnson will carry the load for Arkansas and both Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo, Jr., should be big contributors as well.

The Razorbacks are favored by 7-8 points depending on where you look and the game could be in the 60s for total points. In the end, I think the Hogs will have too much fire power for the Wildcats to keep up with. My prediction: Arkansas 45, Kansas State 24.

Let us know what you think the final score will be. If you’re the closest (see rules below), you’ll get a free t-shirt from Bearstate Supply.

How to enter

Leave a comment with your game prediction. If you want to add anything else, please feel free.

What you’ll win

One t-shirt of your choice (design, color, size) from the Bearstate Supply online store. (Hoodies, ringers and tri-blend AA’s not included)

The rules

  • You only may enter this specific contest once.
  • Contests are open to anyone anywhere except staff of Fayetteville Flyer and their immediate family members.
  • The winning entry must pick the winning team and have the smallest combined difference from each team’s final score. Example: If the Razorbacks win by a score of 21-7, and your prediction was Razorbacks 20-10, your difference would be 1 + 3 = 4. In the event of a tie, a winner will be selected by a random drawing.
  • You must pick the score by 15 minutes before kickoff for each game.
  • Make sure you leave a valid e-mail address when filling out the comment form since that’s how we’ll contact you if you’ve won.

Good luck!

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas State

Date: Friday, Jan. 6, 2012
Time: 7 p.m. CST
Location: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Tx.
TV: Fox

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