A pair of 6-6 teams match up on Wednesday at the Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis, Tenn., as the Arkansas Razorbacks take on the Kansas Jayhawks.
By Steve Wright
Here is a look at the three keys to a Hogs win:
Can the defense hold up?
Bowls used to be the most significant part of any college football season outside of rivalry games. While that might still be true for the biggest bowls – and even that narrative is fading – bowls like the Liberty Bowl do not get the same respect. Arkansas will struggle in the defensive back seven if the depth hasn’t been there this season. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom took the top job at UNLV, and star linebackers Drew Sanders (NFL) and Bumper Pool (injury) are missing. Add in some transfer portal entrants in the secondary, and the back end of the defense is a serious worry.
KJ Jefferson is back
Arkansas is down to a ridiculous 48 scholarship players for this game. That is an insane number that shows something needs to be done about transfers and bowl dropouts, but at least the offense should be there. The majority of the starting offensive line is there, and so is sophomore stud running back Raheim Sanders and his 1,426 yards and ten touchdowns on the season. The big news, however, is that KJ Jefferson is back and (presumably) healed up after carrying knocks through the season. I would like to see Jefferson pass more and run less as he returns in 2023, but in this one, he needs to do what he can to guarantee back-to-back winning seasons for the Hogs.
Win the rushing battle
Kansas is as complete as any team in bowl season – they have no guys jumping to the NFL and only a handful of transfer portal entrants – but that might not help them on the defensive side of the ball. This is a team that doesn’t get stops behind the line of scrimmage and struggles hard against teams with a monster running game. Arkansas also has a monster running game, and the Hogs need to note that Kansas is 0-5 when teams grind for over 230 yards on the ground against them. I see Arkansas going for nearer 300 than 200 here, which statistically should lead to a win.