2016 Autozone Liberty Bowl
Kansas State Wildcats vs Arkansas Razorbacks
Saturday, January 2, 2016, 3:20 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Liberty Bowl – Memphis, Tennessee
Opening Line: Arkansas -11 (-115)
Current Line: Arkansas -12 1/2
Opening Total: 59 1/2
Current Total: 56
Opening Money Line: Arkansas -400 / Kansas State +325
Current Money Line: Arkansas -470 / Kansas State +375
The 6-6 Kansas State Wildcats take on the 7-5 Arkansas Razorbacks in the Liberty Saturday. Expect a lot of red in the stands as Arkansas gets to play right across the Mississippi River in Memphis. This game has added intrigue because Arkansas coach Bret Bielema was an assistant coach under Kansas State coach Bill Snyder in 2002-03.
Kansas State leads the series 3-2 against Arkansas. Arkansas won the last meeting 29-16 in the 2012 Cotton Bowl.
Kansas State finished 8th in the Big 12 at 3-6. The Wildcats won their last three games in order to become bowl eligible. Kansas State is 7-11 all-time in bowl games. The Wildcats are playing in a bowl for the sixth straight season. K-State has lost six of their last seven bowl games including 40-35 last year to UCLA in the Alamo Bowl.
Arkansas tied for third in the SEC West with LSU at 5-3. The Razorbacks are 14-23-3 all-time in bowls, including 1-3 in the Liberty Bowl. Arkansas returned to a bowl last season after a two year hiatus with a 31-7 win over Texas in the Texas Bowl in Houston.
The Wildcats have home wins over South Dakota 34-0, Louisiana Tech 39-33 and Iowa State 38-35 and West Virginia 24-23 in the last game of the season, plus road wins at UTSA 30-3, and Kansas 45-14. Kansas State has road losses at Oklahoma State 36-34, Texas 23-9 and Texas Tech 59-44, plus home losses to TCU 52-45, Oklahoma 55-0 and Baylor 31-24.
Kansas State was a 6.5 point underdog at West Virginia and the total was 54. The Mountaineers took a 13-3 lead at halftime. The Wildcats opened the third quarter with two straight touchdowns to take a 17-13 lead. West Virginia scored 10 straight points though to regain the lead 23-17. After WVU kicked a 28 yard field goal early in the fourth, Kansas State ran back the ensuing kickoff for a 97 yard touchdown. West Virginia had four more possessions but were unable to score. Kansas State held on for the one point win. The Wildcats won despite having only 304 total yards and turning the ball over twice. The Wildcats are 6-6 ATS and the total is 7-5 this season.
Arkansas is coached by Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks have home wins over UTEP 48-13, Auburn 54-46 UT-Martin 63-28 and Missouri 28-3 in the last game of the regular season, plus road wins at Tennessee 24-20, Ole Miss 53-52 and LSU 31-14. Arkansas has home losses to Toledo 16-12 (in Little Rock), Texas Tech 35-24 and Mississippi State 51-50, a neutral site loss to Texas A&M 28-21 in overtime in Arlington, Texas, plus a road loss to Alabama 27-14.
Arkansas was a 15 point favorite against Missouri and the total was 44. Arkansas took a 21-3 into halftime and added another touchdown late in the third. It was more than enough as the Razorbacks held the Tigers to 171 total yards and 8 first downs. Arkansas is 7-5 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season.
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Kansas State is outscoring teams 30.5-30.3 this season. The Wildcats are averaging 341 total yards a game on offense including 177 passing and 164 rushing yards. The Wildcats are #108 in both total offense and passing nationally out of 128 teams. On defense, K-State is allowing 443 total yards including 283 passing and 159 rushing yards. The Wildcats are #120 in pass defense and #100 in total defense. Kansas State has forced 15 turnovers and has 18 of their own. Kansas State averages 40 penalty yards per game and opponents average 56. The Wildcats are 75/184 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 85/200. KSU has forced 36 sacks and allowed 33 this season. The Wildcats are 48/51 scoring in the red zone with 34 touchdowns and opponents are 38/46 with 29 touchdowns. Kansas State has 5 special teams touchdowns this season, and has allowed 2 pick sixes.
Quarterback Joe Hubener has completed 47.8% of his passes for 1,837 yards with 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, along with 180 carries for 613 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Hubener has been injured in several games including against West Virginia and receiver Kody Cook had to come in as the emergency quarterback. Hubener is listed as probable with a leg injury. Cook has thrown for 284 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, along with 55 carries for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jesse Ertz was supposed to be the starter but is out indefinitely with a knee injury suffered in the first game of the season. Another quarterback Jonathan Banks is out indefinitely with an illness.
Running back Charles Jones has 136 carries for 656 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 139 yards. Justin Silmon has 77 carries for 353 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with a catch. Winston Dimel has 27 carries for 76 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 7 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown.
Receiver Deante Burton has 34 catches for 477 yards and 4 touchdowns. Cook has 27 catches for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dominique Heath has 27 catches for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kyle Klein has 18 catches for 275 yards and a touchdown. Glenn Gronkowski has a receiving touchdown, a rushing touchdown and also threw a touchdown pass. Morgan Burns has 4 kickoff returns and a punt return all for touchdowns.
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Arkansas is outscoring teams 35-28 this season. Arkansas is #28 in scoring nationally. The Razorbacks are averaging 458 total yards per game including 264 passing and 194 rushing yards. Arkansas is in the top 36 in all three categories nationally. The Razorbacks are allowing 405 total yards per game including 285 passing and 120 rushing yards. Arkansas is #12 in rush defense but #121 in pass defense. The Razorbacks have forced 17 turnovers and have 10 giveaways this season. Arkansas averages 38 penalty yards per game and opponents average 35 per game. The Razorbacks are 81/171 on third and fourth down conversions, while opponents are 81/180. Arkansas has forced 18 sacks and has allowed 12 this season. The Razorbacks are 43/53 scoring in the red zone with 36 touchdowns and opponents are 42/49 with 32 touchdowns.
Quarterback Brandon Allen has completed 65.1% of his passes for 3,125 yards with 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and has 54 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown. His younger brother Austin is the back-up.
Running back Alex Collins has 248 carries for 1,392 yards and 17 touchdowns, along with 13 catches for 95 yards. Kody Walker has 79 carries for 338 yards and 5 touchdowns. Rawleigh Williams has 56 carries for 254 yards and a touchdown, plus 5 catches. He is out for the season with a neck injury. Running back Jonathan Williams is out for the season with a broken foot. He rushed for over a 1,000 yards last year.
Receiver Drew Morgan has 55 catches for 751 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hunter Henry has 46 catches for 647 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jeremy Sprinkle has 23 catches for 308 yards and 5 touchdowns. Dominique Reed has 27 catches for 520 yards with 5 touchdowns. He is questionable with an ankle injury. Jared Cornelius has 22 catches for 358 yards and 3 touchdowns. Keon Hatcher is questionable with a foot injury. He has 13 catches for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns. Eric Hawkins is questionable with a concussion. Three defensive players are also listed on the injury report.
Kansas State is 4-1 ATS after a straight up win, 7-2 after rushing for less than 100 yards, 20-6-1 against teams with winning records, 23-9 after allowing more than 280 passing yards, 13-6 after a cover, 1-4 in neutral site games, 1-6 in bowl games, and 0-4 in January.
Arkansas is 6-1 ATS against Big 12 teams, 10-3 after rushing for 200 yards or more, 6-2 overall, after passing for less than 170 yards, and after a straight up win of more than 20 points2-7 in neutral site games and 1-4 in January and after allowing less than 20 points.
The Razorbacks have been red hot recently winning four of their last five games. The only blemish in that stretch has been a one point loss to Mississippi State. Kansas State has also been hot winning three straight. Still, I think Arkansas simply has too much and wins this game with ease.