If there is a better matchup of quarterbacks in a bowl, I’m not completely sure where it’s taking place (in hindsight, RG III v. Keith Price was worth the price of admission). Now, these two aren’t cut from the same cloth and it’s a question whether you like cheeseburgers or pizza, but there’s no doubt that Arkansas QB Tyler Wilsonand Kansas State QB Collin Klein drive these offenses. Wilson is the best quarterback in the SEC and has plenty of weapons to utilize out on the perimeter. Between WR Joe Adams, Jarius Wright or Greg Childs, he has his pick of pass catchers to dominate the game.
Klein? He’s pretty much a one-man army. If Kansas State snaps the ball 70 times in this game, Klein will account for about 50 to 55 of those plays (rushes and passes). He’ll carry it 25 to 30 times and will throw it 25 to 30 times as well. The thing about Klein is that nothing is pretty. His release is ugly. He looks a bit slow when he does decide to run. However, when it’s all said and done, he has put Kansas State in a position to win every Saturday.
He’ll pick up the key first down on 3rd and seven, scrambling for eight. He’ll complete a 12 yard pass after evading all defensive linemen on a pass rush, two times over, on 4th and ten in crunch time. It’s like the Navy Seals – don’t ask why or how, just know that it gets done. However, he’s performed his magic against the slightly above average defenses in the Big 12…wait, who am I kidding, the Big 12 defenses stunk this season (and the one before than and the one before that).
Arkansas’s defense won’t shut Klein down, but the defensive front will adjust its rush to make sure Klein has no escape routes inside. If he can’t get through an open lane inside, Jerry Franklin and Alonzo Highsmith then have time to pursue if he does have to “bubble” out around the pass rush. Tackle well in space and Klein and the Wildcats will struggle mightily. That, combined with a sterling performance from Wilson, will be key factors in an Arkansas win.
Kansas State CB Nigel Malone – the surprising junior college transfer was one of the few defensive bright spots in the Big 12 this season, in my humble opinion. He tied for third in the nation with seven interceptions but was always around the ball and typically drew the toughest receiver assignment all year long. He’ll have his hands full with this Arkansas crew and I’m not completely sure which Arkansas receiver will draw his full attention. Either way, keep an eye on #24 for KSU on Friday night.
Arkansas – 38 vs. Kansas State – 27