If you are like me, you half expect to see the Hogs on television today as bowl game after bowl game goes by. Instead, we have to wait until Friday night for our Hogs to join in on the fun. For me that translates into just more time than usual to worry and fret about how the game will proceed and then conclude. Will the Hogs break with tradition (3-7-1) and win a Cotton Bowl? Or will they keep with tradition and lose their eight Cotton Bowl? I've narrowed my worry down to five questions that I think loom large over the Hogs as they go against a very worthy opponent in Kansas State. Sidenote: MSU and Auburn, please forgive my earlier lack of faith in you. Congratulations on winning your bowl games. And Vanderbilt, come on, you lost to a Big East team? Well, welcome to what it feels like to lose a bowl game. The Hogs still stand as the last SEC team to win the Liberty Bowl. Thanks again, Ben Hartman!
1.) What impact, if any, will the changes in the coaching staff have on the Hogs? It isn't Reggie Herring taking over the team and most of the coaches looking towards Oxford instead of the game against Missouri, but you still have to wonder if the exits of McGee, Robinson, and Smith at the end of the regular season are going to cause any problems. It is good that Paul Petrino already knows the system, so I am not as worried there, but Paul Haynes will be calling the defensive plays (probably largely still Robinson's plays) for the first time ever as a defensive coordinator. Hmm. If you want to feel better about this, concentrate your thinking on the 2000 Cotton Bowl when Keith Burns left before the bowl game and Louis Campbell stepped in and did a very admirable job in stopping Texas's offense that day.
2.) How will the time off impact the Hogs' offense? The Hogs haven't played a life game since the day after Thanksgiving. Every offense is a timing offensive, but those that rely so much more on the pass like we do, well, we are even more of a timing offense. Will we need a quarter, god forbid a half, to knock the rust off? Kansas State depends more upon the run, so I would expect them to have less of a problem getting out of the gate.
3.) Related to the question above, will our receivers show up again with a case of the drops? Our receiving corps has had a good year of avoiding games where their hands turned into cement blocks, like in the Sugar Bowl. If we see a repeat of that, then it will mean even quicker three and outs and more and more pressure on the defense, which, honestly, doesn't need any more pressure on it.
4.) To what degree will the Hogs be able to stop Collin Klein, Kansas State's quarterback, when he decides to take off with the ball? This season Klein has rushed for 1,099 yards (think Matt Jones) and scored 26 touchdowns total. In our last Cotton Bowl, Reggie Herring put all his chips on stopping Chase Daniels' passing attack. He did that. But then Missouri's running back, Temple, I think, ran all over us. I hope we don't see some type of repeat of putting a finger in one hole in the dam and not being able to reach a second hole where the water comes gushing through. This season we saw how hard the Hogs had a time of it when they tried to stop Ole Miss's Mackey and Vanderbilt's Rogers when they went to scrambling. But then they did a pretty good job of limiting Auburn's running quarterback, Kyle Frazier. Another way of phrasing this question is to say, how well will the Hogs tackle on Friday?
5.) To what degree will bowl experience be a factor? It is my hope, that the answer is a lot! Our seniors have played in the Liberty Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. They've won one and they've lost one. But in both cases, they've experienced bowl preparation and the nerves that come with the game itself. A lot of people commented after the Sugar Bowl that OSU looked like a team from the very start that was used to a BCS setting and that gave them an advantage. These Hogs haven't played in a Cotton Bowl, but they have played in Jerry World the last three seasons and shouldn't have eyes the size of saucers at any point during the week ahead. In case you are wondering, K-State's players have one bowl experience, the Pin Stripe Bowl, since Synder's return. They played a close game against Syracuse, but lost in the end 36-34.
An Omen? A sign? A curse? : If you are keeping up with Arkansas news, you know that black birds once again dropped dead out of the sky over Beebe this year on New Year's Eve. Last year when this happened, the Hogs a few days later lost a heart-breaker in New Orleans. Hmm. Has Kansas State gone and hired the same New Orleans Voodoo queen to curse the Hogs and the state itself? Or are we just looking at blackbirds in Beebe being an especially nervous Nelly of a flock when it comes to fireworks? I'll let you decide for yourself, haha.