So taking on a deep Arkansas wide receiver group led by Joe Adams and Jarius Wright doesn't do anything but whet Malone's competitive juices again.
"I like it," he said. "I think you look forward to it. You look forward to the games. You want to play. When you get a chance to compete against the best, you get excited. This is a talented, deep group at Arkansas.
"I've watched Joe Adams and Jarius Wright a lot. Then they had a guy like Greg Childs who was really good last year and is coming back now. They've got some big guys and they've got some really speedy guys -- guys you've seen on highlight reels. Joe Adams is a human highlight reel."
Malone is a first-year player at K-State. He played two years at College of San Francisco before K-State gobbled him up in a recruiting war that produced more walk-on offers than scholarships. His other main destinations were New Mexico and Kentucky. Boise State wanted him to walk-on.
"He's been very good," defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said. "When you watched him in junior college, he made every play in his area and he was a good tackler. He's done that for us."
Well, he's done more than that. Malone leads a ball-hawking KSU secondary with seven interceptions. He's also got 57 tackles. You can tell that quarterbacks have gone away from Malone. David Garrett, the corner on the other side, has 78 tackles.
"He wants people to come to his side," Cosh said. "But you look at the stats and decide where the ball is going."
Yep, not his way. But when the ball gets there, he's in position to get his hands on it.
"Very detail oriented," Cosh said. "He knows what the other team is doing. He's into the routes. He knows where the ball is going to be. I thought he was a good player, but I didn't know he had the ball skills that he's shown this year."
The Wildcats have given up a lot of passing yards. They are among the nation's worst in passing yards, but they have 18 interceptions and they have set up plenty of points with those turnovers.
"We've had game changing turnovers," Cosh said. "We've scored with them and taken the ball back inside the 10 with several others. Those are momentum changers and that's what this defense has done to help us win games."
The Big 12 has plenty of pass-happy teams so the Hogs are nothing new to the K-State defense.
"We see more passes than Miss America on a Saturday night," Cosh said. "Really, Arkansas is similar to a lot of teams we see in our league. They are different in some respects, too.
"They are very good in that they have four, five, six wide receivers and then a great tight end and then several running backs and all of them catch it well. We might not see that many and they have a quarterback who can get them the ball. They protect and can run, too. That (Alvin Bailey) tilts the field at one of their guards."
Malone said the Hogs compare best to Oklahoma.
"The speed and the number of possession receivers Arkansas has is like Oklahoma," Malone said. "They have the size guys in Greg Childs and Cobi Hamilton. Then they have the speed guys like Joe Adams and Jarius Wright. They have a lot of weapons, similar to Oklahoma."
Cosh said there is some unknown to the Arkansas offense heading to the bowl.
"You realize that (Paul Petrino) is back and he's going to give them some new wrinkles that maybe he saw would help them since he's been gone for two years," Cosh said. "Maybe not a lot. Maybe not a whole lot. But there will be something different. There always is in a bowl game, most especially when you add someone back into the mix like they did at coordinator."
It may mean for a bigger defensive package going into the game.
Cosh doesn't worry about his guys being prepared.
"What I love about this group is that they love ball," he said. "Sometimes guys don't like to practice. These guys do. Nigel is one of those guys who just is a ball player.
"You go out to practice and give them a look and he'll say, 'Coach, one more time with that play. Let's see it again.' You don't have that all the time. That tells you they like the game and want to play it right."
Malone laughed about that.
"I'm not saying I like all areas of practice," he said. "But I do like the 7-on-7 stuff. I like getting those reps. Some of it, though, I'm not going to say, 'One more time.' But I would rather be at practice than sitting at home doing nothing."