The Rootability Index helps you, the uninvested neutral viewer, who to root for in bowl games. The last big bowl before the Fais-Do-Do in Quarter is upon us: the Cotton Bowl, featuring Kansas State and Arkansas, is tonight. The sponsor's name, however, will not appear in this column since they seem happy dropping us whenever they please during phone calls, and because turnabout is fair play.
ROOTABILITY FACTORS. A matchup of top 25 teams would normally end up all over ESPN, and receive its own Musburgerian sobriquet.
This being a FOX game, you will have to imagine the importance for yourself until Gus Johnson takes the mic for the call, and then each instant of this game will sound like Ragnarok itself. Some people find Johnson too emotive. These people never have sex with the lights on. Listen to their opinions on nothing.
On Kansas State, a digression to illustrate a point. I do what most people of my age and gender do during the Christmas holidays. I drink, and play video games with my male relatives, and drink. During this last Christmas break, I watched my brother-in-law playing a racing game, Forza 4. Typically the M.O. in these games is to get the fastest, most expensive car possible, upgrade it to something just slightly less than an F-22 without wings, and then win every race in the game by wide margins.
Not my brother-in-law. Instead, he took a '92 Ford Escort, slapped a hideous spoiler on the beast, kept the K-car grey paint coat, and put in the biggest engine that wouldn't actually blow the wheels off the car. He then entered a race against a crew of Maseratis, Koeningseggs, and Ferraris, and won the thing by the margin of what appeared to be a foot.
How did he accomplish this feat? A cunning combination of brute force and deft line work, cutting every corner on the track possible while elbowing shinier, more expensive machines into the walls. When the race finished, the car itself looked like it had been attacked by sheet metal-eating jackals, but it got the job done.
The moral of the story is both that my brother-in-law is a video game genius, and that Kansas State is the little jacked-up, overpowered '92 Escort that could. The parts come from all over the place--JUCO parts always welcome at Snyder's Family Garage--and the packaging itself isn't as big or flashy as you'll find elsewhere, but with the indestructible Collin Klein at quarterback and Bill Snyder running the race team, they are persistent racers who are looking to hang around and win the race by a bumper's width.
(To wit: all but one of their victories against FBS teams came by a touchdown or less. You say, "Oh, they beat Kansas by a 59-21 margin! Correction!" Please see the bit about "FBS teams," and keep reading.)
Opposing them would be the Arkansas Razorbacks, a team breaking in a new defensive coordinator (Homer voice: That's bad!) and working against a team that surrendered 500 yards in back-to-back games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. (Homer voice: That's good!) The rushing offense is a mere formality supporting Tyler Wilson, the pivot point for the Razorbacks' passing game who models his game on Brett Favre's. If Wilson chooses to be Brett Favre before he turned 30, then Arkansas should win this game by a large margin. If Wrangler Spokesman and Gunslinger Favre turns up, and Kansas State is within 10 points in the fourth quarter, well...bring back that Homer voice. (That's bad!)
Also of note: Arkansas's defense allows 175 rushing yards a game, and is playing a team that really, really likes to run the ball and keep the score down. This should be a point of concern, especially given some of the trixy option looks and qb runs K-State has in their gameplan.
Football notes aside, there are other factors. Golfing drunks and insane multimillionaires, your only choice is Arkansas due to the attendance of John Daly and Jerry Jones. Serial killers, also step the Razorbacks' way: the Razorback live mascot is the only mascot to have ever gone on a killing spree after escaping, wreaking havoc on the surrounding countryside before police tracked it down and shot it.
As for K-State, root for them if you are into clipping coupons, using Scoutmob or Groupon, or if you are a cow who can read.
LEAN: KANSAS STATE. If only because a K-State lean would hope for a tight, entertaining game, and not the blowout an Arkansas victory would be.