Kansas State (10-2) vs. Arkansas (10-2)Jan. 6, 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Reason to watch: We know why Arkansas isn't playing in a BCS bowl: the limit of two teams per conference. It's harder to fathom why Kansas State wasn't chosen -- Sugar Bowl, we're looking at you -- but never mind. What matters is the Cotton Bowl gets a BCS-quality matchup. The Wildcats lost only to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, and Bill Snyder's second go-around at the Miracle in Manhattan is working very well. At 72, he's suddenly the oldest head coach at the FBS level ("I'm not only the oldest coach in the world, I might be the oldest person in the world," he said), but has the energy to maintain a legendarily grueling work schedule. The Razorbacks lost only to Alabama and LSU, two fairly decent teams you might recognize, but third place in the SEC West equals a well-earned Top 10 ranking. We're in store for a clash of styles: Arkansas led the SEC in passing, while Kansas State has a formidable rushing attack. And here's the thing: While the Hogs struggle to stop the run (No. 80 nationally), the Wildcats haven't been able to stop the pass (No. 105 nationally). Though the bar for high-octane shootouts has been reset (see: Alamo, Rose and Fiesta bowls) in the last few days, the strength-on-weakness matchups provide potential for wild entertainment.
Keep an eye on: Arkansas return specialist Joe Adams produced one of the all-time highlights on a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee, which featured too much darting, ducking and direction changing to describe here -- watch the video for the full effect. It was one of three punts Adams took back for TDs this season, averaging 16.2 yards per return. The senior receiver also has 49 catches for 630 yards and three more TDs. If you're looking for a game-changer, watch Adams. If you miss him -- or if Kansas State does -- you can check YouTube later.
Did you know: Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is not fast, but he's big and very effective as a runner. He's not an exceptionally accurate passer, but when the Wildcats absolutely have to have it, Klein somehow comes through. There might not be an offensive player in college football who is more valuable to his team. If this reminds you of anyone, well, sure. The inevitable comparison is to Tim Tebow, starting with on-field similarities and continuing to background. Like Tebow, Klein was homeschooled. Like Tebow, he is outspoken about his devout Christian faith. "You can certainly see some comparisons there," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "The size and the strength, the ability to break tackles, the ability to win games in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line. The ability to make big throws when the game is on the line. He is a really, really good football player."
Final analysis: The quarterbacks are very different, but both are key to their teams' success. As a first-year starter, Arkansas junior Tyler Wilson threw for 3,422 yards and 22 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He benefited from a very talented group of receivers led by Jarius Wright (63 catches, 1,029 yards, 11 touchdowns). Meanwhile, Klein came to Kansas State as a wide receiver. He moved to quarterback as a sophomore and into the starting lineup this year, as a junior. Though he's inconsistent passing, he rushed for almost 1,100 yards and 26 touchdowns.
After the Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 preseason predictions, they've surprised just about everyone. But they still have a few steps to take to catch up with the Big 12's elite. The same is true of the Razorbacks in the SEC West -- but they're closer to elite. With a win, Arkansas will take momentum into the offseason for what could be -- I know, it's the SEC West -- a run at the next BCS national championship.
The pick: Arkansas 33, Kansas State 24