Kansas State v. Arkansas
Liberty Bowl — Memphis, TN
January 2, 2016 — 3:20 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
After bouncing around between Philadelphia and Atlantic city for its first six years of existence, the Liberty Bowl has been anchored in Memphis since 1965. The annual showdown in Tennessee is the fourth-oldest non-New Year’s Six bowl game on the postseason schedule, started in between the post-World War II boom and the 1970s bowl expansion. After over a decade of serving as a showcase for mid-major teams against power-conference competition, the Liberty Bowl is in its second season of affiliation with the Big 12 and SEC. It made for a close encounter last season, and could result in another tight contest in 2015.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Kansas State Wildcats
Bill Snyder’s team hit a rut this season, barely eking into the postseason thanks to a three-game winning streak to end the year. The Wildcats are neither prolific on offense nor solid on defense, allowing as many points as they scored over the course of 2015. Joe Hubener completed less than half of his pass attempts, and nobody topped 700 rushing yards in the backfield. When they got to the red zone, they were prolific, scoring on nearly 95 percent of their 51 opportunities. When the offense did manage to gain traction and put points on the scoreboard, though, Kansas State was hampered by a defense that allowed over 30 points and 440 yards per game to opponents. Three of the Wildcats’ five wins over FBS competition came by less than a touchdown — in overtime against Louisiana Tech, on a last-second 42-yard Jack Cantele field goal against Iowa State, and on a 97-yard kickoff return against West Virginia. Will the luck continue against the Razorbacks?
Bret Bielema’s team was quietly one of the best offensive units in the country in 2015, averaging over 35 points per game and 450 yards per game. Brandon Allen ranked seventh nationally in passing efficiency, and Alex Collins put up nearly 1400 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns from the backfield. The Razorbacks also ranked in the top 10 in FBS for fewest penalties per game, averaging 4.4 flags and 38 lost yards per game. Arkansas could lean on its run defense to stop opposing ground attacks, but that was countered by an abysmal pass defense that allowed nearly 285 yards per outing. Few teams were better at keeping their defense off the field, though, as Arkansas ranked third in the country in time of possession, and the Razorbacks set up good field position with the 10th-best punt return unit. The defense has the benefit of facing an equally weak offense, though, which could play into the SEC squad’s favor.
What is Likely to Happen
The line diverges between 11 and 13 points, depending on which sportsbook you consult, but all of them favor Arkansas in this encounter. Three of the Razorbacks’ five losses came in overtime and/or by less than one touchdown, countering Kansas State’s luck in that regard. Playing an even more disciplined game than Bill Snyder’s crew, Arkansas should manage to keep the ball away from the Wildcats and punch the ball into the endzone pretty much at will. Neither Hubener nor emergency backup and regular wide receiver Kody Cook will be able to consistently threaten even the weak Razorback secondary, and this game could be out of control before halftime.
Arkansas 45, Kansas State 20
|2015-2016 SPORTS UNBIASED BOWL PREVIEWS:|
|DECEMBER 19-24: New Mexico | Las Vegas | Camellia | Cure | New Orleans | Miami Beach | Idaho Potato | Boca Raton | Poinsettia | GoDaddy | Bahamas | Hawai'i
DECEMBER 26-30: St. Petersburg | Sun | Heart of Dallas | Pinstripe | Independence | Foster Farms | Military | Quick Lane | Armed Forces | Russell Athletic | Arizona | Texas | Birmingham | Belk | Music City | Holiday
DECEMBER 31-JANUARY 11: Peach | Orange | Cotton | Outback | Citrus | Fiesta | Rose | Sugar | TaxSlayer | Liberty | Alamo | Cactus | CFP National Championship