The Cotton Bowl may not be as prestigious as it was during the pre-BCS days, but it might just be the biggest and best non-BCS bowl today. This year's game, which will be held on Jan. 6, will feature the top matchup outside of the BCS. In No. 6-ranked Arkansas and No. 8-ranked Kansas State, Cotton Bowl chairman Tommy Bain thinks his game will be one of the best in the country (via the Kansas City Star).
"We consider ourselves just like a BCS bowl," Bain said. "This year we will have No. 6 vs. No. 8. That’s the third-best matchup outside of the national championship game. … I think fans are going to appreciate probably the finest stadium in the world. It will be a championship-type atmosphere. I think everyone will really enjoy it."
In recent years, the game has moved away from some of the traditions. The biggest is that it's no longer played at the actual Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas and is now played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. It's also no longer played on New Year's Day.
But the main tradition survives, as the game continues to pit top-quality teams from football-mad conferences against one another. Kansas State (10-2) has historically drawn some enormous crowds to past Cotton Bowls and Little Rock, Ark. is just about five hours away from the stadium. This will be the 12th time the Razorbacks (10-2) have played in the Cotton Bowl, but the first time since 2008.
On the field, Kansas State currently holds a 3-1 historical advantage, but the last meeting between these two teams was back in 1967.
The Razorbacks had been among the country's hottest teams before falling to No. 1-ranked LSU in their season finale, costing Arkansas a spot in the SEC Championship game. They had been riding a seven-game winning streak, with their only other loss coming against Alabama, who will face off against LSU in the National Championship Game.
During the winning streak, Arkansas beat Texas A&M, Auburn and South Carolina, all of whom were ranked in the Top 15 when the games were played. In contrast to Razorbacks teams of the past, this one does it mostly through the air. Their 307.8 yards passing per game is the 13th best average in the country and their 37.4 points scored per game is 15th best. Quarterback Tyler Wilson threw for 3,422 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Their wasn't necessarily much expected of Kansas State this year, but Bill Snyder managed to turn the program around faster than most expected. After going just 13-12 in his first two seasons after being rehired, the Wildcats went 10-2 this year and nearly snuck into the Sugar Bowl.
Snyder got the Wildcats out to a 7-0 start this year before dropping back-to-back games to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, both of whom were ranked in the Top 10 at the time. Kansas State rebounded to win their final three games, including a four-overtime win over Texas A&M and at Texas, who was ranked No. 23 at the time.
Kansas State is led by quarterback Collin Klein, who passed for 12 touchdowns and ran for 26 more. He actually led the team in rushing with 1,099 yards.
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