DALLAS, Texas – The time has come when Big 12 faces SEC, when 10-2 meets 10-2, and when the No. 6 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks face the No. 8 Kansas State Wildcats in the 76th Annual AT&T Cotton Bowl tonight at Cowboys Stadium.
"Coach Snyder says, and he's very wise, ‘Rule #12 is no self-limitation.' Internally, we're not going to put limitations on how good we think we are. Externally, we're not going to put limitations on how good people think we are or how bad they think we are going to be. That makes the game about us and it makes it about us continually trying to get better. It takes anything external out the window."
Arkansas, which is only 3-7-1 in Cotton Bowl history, sports an offense that ranked either first or second in the SEC in passing (308 yards per game), total offense (446) and scoring (37.4). Outside of losses to No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Alabama, the Hogs have scored at least 29 points in every other game. Starring on offense is all-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson.
"Tough. Very Tough," KSU defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said of Wilson. "He's physical and he's an accurate passer at 63 percent."
And who else needs to be stopped on offense?
"The Arkansas team," said Cosh. "They have a running game and a passing game and quarterback that can do both for them."
And on defense, KSU run-game coordinator Dana Dimel says of Arkansas, "I see guys that are athletic and I see them to be very explosive off the edge. Their two inside defensive tackles are over 300 pounds and the both bend and move very well."
Overall of KSU's offense and winning eight games by seven points or less, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said, "They know how to make plays when the game is on the line. They are a great situation football team. They have had stops on fourth and one, they have had stops on fourth and four, they have had stops on two-point plays. We have to be really on the money in our situation football."
As one might guess, most of Arkansas' attention has been on No. 7 for the Wildcats, Collin Klein.
Defensive end Tenarius Wright said, "Their style of offense reminds me of the Cam Newton package they had last year at Auburn. They are very patient. They read the defense. They are going to hit the holes they are required to hit. They aren't going to force anything. They are going to take what you give them."
And fellow end Jake Bequette said, "He is a big powerful guy. He runs their offense very well. We kind of like to say he is the engine that makes the car of the offense go. It starts and ends with him."
Flipping to defense, Petrino said, "Their cornerbacks and safeties are really good with the ball. They handle the ball really well. They react to it in tipped ball situations and that stuff. They are also very aggressive." Overall, he added, "We have tremendous respect for them. They know how to win games."
KEYS TO VICTORY:
So, what exactly will be the keys to victory in tonight's 7:32 kick-off? The keys to defeating a team that averages 37.4 points, 446 yards per game – 308 passing and 138 rushing -- and 6.5 yards per play?
• Chris Cosh, defensive coordinator – It's hard to say when you're playing the No. 17 passing team in the nation, but we have to stop the run.
When they get both rolling, you're going to be in trouble. The key is to make them one dimensional, and then to limit them on yards after receptions.
• Nigel Malone, d-back – We have to play four quarters of football and wrap them up.
• Jordan Voelker, d-end – We have to have relentless pursuit and make tackles.
• Del Miller, offensive coordinator – We have to score points because they have shown that ability all year, and we can't turn the ball over.
• Collin Klein, quarterback – We have to execute and not beat ourselves. It's like any other game.
• Chris Harper, receiver – We have to play relaxed and not get caught up in the big stage. We have to do what we've done all year. If we do that, we'll be fine.
• B.J. Finney, center – Execution and eliminate errors. The team with the fewest errors will come out on top.
And on Arkansas' side, Petrino said on what the Hogs need to do to win, "We need to be very, very sound in our gap control. The players have to disciplined with their eyes and make sure we understand what schemes they are trying to run. Then the number one thing we have to do is to play full speed and run to the ball."
K-State and Arkansas have played four times with the Wildcats wining three of those games. The most recent game was in 1967 in Little Rock with Arkansas winning, 28-7.
K-State's wins came in 1926 (16-7), 1911 (3-0 in Kansas City) and 1910 (5-0).
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
KANSAS STATE –
NO. 7 – COLLIN KLEIN, QB – All-Big 12 All-Purpose player … 26 rushing TDs, which is one shy of the Big 12 record of Rickey Williams … second among BCS quarterbacks with 91.6-yard per game rushing average … 5th in the nation in TD responsibility with 26 rushing and 12 passing … accounted for three or more TDs in eight games.
NO. 33 – John Hubert, RB – Needs 67 yards to reach 1,000 … Klein-Hubert would become only the second 1-2 1,000-yarders in a single season in KSU history … single-game high of 166 yards vs. Miami.
NO. 4 – Arthur Brown, LB – First-team All-Big 12 performer and Defensive Newcomer of the Year … owns 95 tackles with 7.5 for negative yardage.
NO. 8 – TYLER WILSON, QB – First-team All-SEC, the first QB in Arkansas history … second player in school history to pass for 3,000-plus yards, which included a 510-yard game against Texas A&M … completed passes at 64 percent clip with 22 TDS to 6 interceptions.
NO. 33 – Dennis Johnson, RB – Rushed for 637 yards with a per-carry average of 6.3 yards … second-team All-SEC … averaged 25.6 yards on 28 kickoff returns.
NO. 4 Jarius Wright AND NO. 3 Joe Adams, WR – Wright, 5-10, 180, caught 63 passes for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns … all-time school leader with 165 catches … first-team All-SEC: Adams, 5-11, 190, caught 49 passes for 630 yards and three TDs, plus averaged 16.2 yards on 16 punt returns, which included three TDs, which led the nation … the SEC's Special Teams Player of the Year.
NO. 34 – Jerry Franklin, LB – Led the team with 93 tackles with 10 for negative yards … second-team All-SEC … third in all-time tackles in Arkansas history … making 31st consecutive start.
NO. 5 – Tramain Thomas, S – Second in tackles with 87 … six passes broken up … owns 12 career interceptions.
It's a sellout with 80,000 fans expected.
The men in stripes will be from the Big Ten Conference.
It's called RealGrass Matrix turf supplied by Sportfield LLC turf located in Austin, Texas.
While the roof can open/close in 12 minutes, it will be closed tonight.
COMPARING 2011 STATS:
BCS RANKING No. 8 No. 6
RECORD 10-2 10-2
SCORING 33.1 32.4
RUSHING 194 138
PASSING 150 308
TOTAL OFFENSE 344 446
SCORING DEF. 27.8 22.7
RUSHING DEF. 131 174
PASSING DEF. 267 197
TOTAL DEFENSE 398 371
TURNOVER MARGIN +13 O.0