Cotton Bowl 2012: Why Arkansas and Kansas State Can Be Conference Champs in 2012
Arkansas is ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings, but are not eligible for a BCS bowl because of the LSU-Alabama rematch for the BCS National Championship. The Hogs' only losses came at the hands of the Tigers and Tide as they look to keep it that way by beating the Wildcats of Kansas State in Friday's Cotton Bowl.
Bill Snyder has the Wildcats back to playing old-school, smash-mouth football. The Big 12 Coach of the Year showed why he is the master of the Wildcat, pulling all the right strings with Collin Klein. Despite being ranked higher than both Michigan and Virginia Tech, the Cats were passed over for the Sugar Bowl. Expect K-State to be hungry to prove they deserved a spot over both the Wolverines and Hokies.
First things first: both teams are looking to take care of business in the Cotton Bowl. However, no matter what happens in tomorrow's game, both teams will be poised to win conference titles in 2012 and earn an automatic bid into a BCS bowl next season.
Tyler Wilson Back at Arkansas
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Arkansas' Tyler Wilson is just a junior and he'll be back under center for the Razorbacks in 2012.
In his only full season as a starter, Wilson completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,422 yards, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He was a semifinalist for the O'Brien Award and a finalist for the Unitas and Manning awards. He was also selected All-SEC by both the AP and coaches.
He'll be an early favorite for the Heisman, and he is capable of leading Arkansas back to a Top 5 spot in the polls.
Collin Klein Back at K-State
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Like Wilson, Collin Klein is also a junior. He surprised many in the college football world with his grit and determination. He is a run-first quarterback who plays a hard-nosed brand of football and is a dual threat in the option.
He played in all 12 of the Wildcats' games and passed for 1,745 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also led the 'Cats in rushing with 1,099 yards on 293 carries. He had an impressive 26 scores on the ground. He scored 38 of the team's 45 offensive touchdowns.
If he can develop a little more as a passer, Klein can lead the Wildcats to another impressive season in 2012 and a possible Big 12 Championship.
LSU Quarterbacks Gone
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Both Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson are leaving LSU after this season. It could be difficult for Les Miles' team to remain atop the SEC West with Zach Mettenberger or a freshman starting at quarterback next season.
Mettenberger completed eight passes for 92 yards and a touchdown this season. He has some skill, but being a full-time starter is a big jump from throwing 11 passes.
The Tigers are built on defense, but they'll have to be able to score some points to keep up with the Hogs' aerial attack.
Elite Quarterbacks Leaving
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K-State fans where hopeful that Landry Jones would be headed out of Norman to somewhere in the the NFL. That's not happening, but Baylor's Robert Griffin is likely done playing college ball after his Heisman season. I almost forgot; Brandon Weeden is also a senior.
That's two opponents losing elite quarterbacks in the Big 12.
Texas A&M and Missouri are also gone. That basically leaves Oklahoma as the major threat to the Wildcats next season. I still think Texas is a year away, so this could be the window that K-State and Bill Snyder need.
Alabama and LSU at Home
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Arkansas lost to LSU and Alabama both on the road. True, the Razorbacks were outscored 79 to 31 in those games.
However, Arkansas gets both the Tigers and Tide at home in 2012. That could make a huge difference the next time around, especially with the Tigers starting a new quarterback. As long as the Hogs can win one of those games, they have a shot at winning the division.
That's not to say that they can't win both.
Weak Big 12 Conference
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I've already alluded to this by mentioning the departures of the star quarterbacks at Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State, but the Big 12 will not be what it used to be.
Moreover, Texas A&M and Missouri will be leaving for the SEC and will be replaced by West Virginia and TCU. Despite the Mountaineers' huge win in the Orange Bowl, I'm not convinced that they will be able to play that brand of football of the Big 12.
Texas will be back soon, but I don't think it's going to be this year. Baylor was a one-year wonder, and I'm not sold on Oklahoma without Jones behind center.
K-State won't walk through the Big 12, but the Cats have to be considered the favorites to win the Big 12 in 2012.