The Arkansas Razorbacks have cemented themselves as the third best team in the SEC West so far in the 2011-2012 college football season. Although the Razorbacks find themselves in the same division as LSU and Alabama, they are nevertheless having a tremendous season.
With a record of 8-1 and the No. 8 ranking in the BCS rankings, the Razorbacks have given themselves the opportunity to participate a big bowl game—perhaps a BCS bowl—this year.
With one of the most lethal passing attacks in the game, led by QB Tyler Wilson and coach Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks still have the opportunity to improve their bowl prospects in the remaining three games of the season.
With Arkansas yet to play LSU, the Hogs' record and ranking could drastically change by the end of the season—and so could their bowl destination.
The Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida matches up the No. 3 or No. 4 team from the SEC and the Big Ten's third-ranked team. If the Outback Bowl were to take place today, the Arkansas Razorbacks would take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers or the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Outback Bowl is the last bowl game that the Hogs want to participate in. It pays out an honest $3.5 million for each school, but the level of competition wouldn't be up to Arkansas' standards.
Big Ten teams like the Huskers and Badgers aren't great defensively and have yet to prove that they can compete with SEC teams. The Razorbacks would make quick work of either of these Big Ten teams.
Much like the Outback Bowl, the Capital One Bowl would see the Arkansas Razorbacks and Tyler Wilson take on a Big Ten opponent. The Razorbacks would have to be the second-ranked SEC team in order to qualify—or, if multiple SEC teams qualify for BCS bowls, Arkansas could move into this bowl by default.
If the Capital One Bowl took place today, the University of Arkansas would bring home $4.5 million and would play the Michigan State Spartans. Unlike the possible Outback Bowl matchups, a game between Michigan State and Arkansas would be somewhat appealing.
The Spartans have been a surprising team this season—they average 26.6 points a game while allowing only 16. The game could be a good one.
State's late-game heroics would also add intrigue to this matchup—if the game came down to the fourth quarter, it could be exciting to watch Tyler Wilson and Kirk Cousins gunning it out for the victory.
The last non-BCS bowl the Arkansas Razorbacks might qualify for is the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas. The Cotton Bowl is probably the one non-BCS bowl that is still treated like a big game. It is the last big-ticket non-BCS bowl game played prior to the national championship game.
The Cotton Bowl would see the Razorbacks hypothetically take on the No. 2 team in the Big 12 that isn't a part of the National Championship game. At this point, the Hogs would take on the Oklahoma Sooners on January 6th in Arlington. It's shocking to think that the Razorbacks would ever face the Sooners this season—but this game would be a barnburner.
Talk about an offensive shootout—Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones could break records in this game. Jones and the Sooners feature the nation's third-ranked passing attack (averaging 380 yards per game), while the Razorbacks and Tyler Wilson have the nation's eighth-ranked passing game (averaging 318 yards per game).
Defense would be completely disregarded in this game—any defensive stop could be a difference maker.
The Sooners have the better defense—but just barely. This one would be a high-scoring affair with one big defensive play possibly making the difference.
Both teams would most definitely deserve their $3.625 million paychecks.
The likelihood of the Razorbacks' participation in a BCS bowl game is purely dependent on how Alabama finishes the season and/or whether the Hogs are able to defeat the LSU Tigers in the last game of the regular season.
Hypothetically, the Arkansas Razorbacks could find themselves in position to play in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans at the end of the season.
The Sugar Bowl, which pays out $17 million, would likely see the Razorbacks take on Boise State or Oregon. Again this would be an offensive shootout. Boise State and Oregon feature two of the most lethal offensive attacks in the game.
The Ducks have speed not only at running back, but also at quarterback with Darron Thomas.
For the Broncos, Kellen Moore (soon to be the most statistically-decorated QB in NCAA history) is the offensive leader. Because he plays for Boise State, Moore is on the outside looking in for the Heisman this year, but a battle between him and Tyler Wilson would be a spectacle. Both Wilson and Moore are extremely accurate and talented.
Either way, if Arkansas participates in the Sugar Bowl, the game would be high scoring and very entertaining for the fans.
A spot in the BCS National Championship in New Orleans on January 9th is extremely unlikely for the Hogs—but it is still possible.
Several different things would have to occur for the Hogs to find themselves in this position. All of the one-loss teams must lose a second game, Boise State must lose a game and the Razorbacks must defeat LSU in the final regular season game.
That being said, if the Razorbacks do find themselves in this position, they would most likely take on LSU or Oklahoma State.
The LSU matchup is intriguing solely because of the rematch factor. Could Tyler Wilson overpower the nation's number two defense twice? It would be interesting to see Jarius Wright and Joe Adams matched up against LSU's superb cornerback duo of Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne.
Meanwhile, the Razorbacks and the Oklahoma State Cowboys are practically the same team. They both have average defenses and their offenses are heavily passing-based. It would be interesting to see Petrino's offensive scheme doing battle with Coach Gundy's.
The Razorbacks would need to make some defensive stops if they were to win this offensive shootout. In any case, of the two potential BCS National Championship matchups, this would be the better of the two—it would be exciting for the fans, and the Hogs would have a better shot at walking away with the crystal football.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
Follow him on Twitter: @John_Bain