Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman has gotten the bowling ball he nicknamed “Larry” out for the second straight season. The 6-6 Razorbacks are headed to Memphis, and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to take on the 6-6 Kansas Jayhawks. We will learn who Kansas is, what threats they pose to Arkansas and the history of the hogs in the Liberty Bowl. Let’s analyze Arkansas and Kansas as they go bowling in Memphis.
When: December 28th
Time: Kickoff at 5:30 EST
Where: Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
The game is sponsored by AutoZone and will have country music artist star Scotty McCreery as the halftime entertainer. This season, the bowl will also be honoring the 1982 game. This game was the last of the legendary coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant. This will be the 63rd edition of this bowl game. The Liberty Bowl has seen some legendary players, coaches, and games in its history.
Arkansas and Kansas Go Bowling In Memphis
Who Are the Kansas Jayhawks?
The Kansas Jayhawks make their way to Memphis, and the Liberty Bowl, for the first time, and will be their first postseason game since 2008. The Jayhawks started the season as hot as any in the nation after a 5-0 start. Kansas would finish the season 1-6 and come into the bowl game looking to finish the season strong. Under head coach Lance Leipold, this program and its fanbase have a renewed confidence not seen during the Mark Mangino days of the program. The Jayhawks enter this bowl game an even 6-6 in school history This also includes a loss to North Carolina State 31-18 in the 1973 Liberty Bowl. The Jayhawk and Razorbacks have met twice in their history in 1905 and 1906. Let’s look at who this program has that is a threat to Arkansas.
What Are Their Threats?
While the offense has been led by two very talented quarterbacks who have the numbers to back it up. Starting the season, Jalon Daniels had the nation in awe as he was being mentioned as a Heisman contender. Daniels. In 2022, he was 115/175 for 1,470 yards, 13 touchdowns, and two interceptions. His play was key in the early season success, with Kansas ranking as high as number 19 in the top 25. Daniels would be out the next four games with a shoulder injury. Daniels would return and start the final two games of the regular season. Next man up was the case again.
Senior Jason Bean would step in and fill the void the best he could. Bean would only complete 87 of 135 passes for 1,280 yards for 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also threw for at least 200 yards in five straight games for the Jayhawks. Bean would go on to successfully lock up a bowl birth in their sixth win of the season over Oklahoma State. No matter what quarterback starts the game, it is a threat to an Arkansas defense that finished 123rd in the nation.
Furthermore, the backfield has even more talent for this offense. Running back Devin Neal is the unsung hero of this potent offense. In fact, the sophomore was key in the above-mentioned Oklahoma State win rushing for 244 yards on 32 carries. The 244 yards is a career-high for Neal. In 2022, Neal finished 5th in the Big 12 in rushing. Neal would finish with 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns. Neal would set history this season for the Jayhawks by being the first player to rush for 200 yards and have over 100 receiving yards with his 244 on the ground and six catches for 110 yards in receptions.
There was some controversy about who Kansas would play in their bowl game. However, initially, it was reported that the Jayhawks would meet Missouri in the Liberty Bowl. According to reports, Missouri was not in favor of this matchup and instead chose to play Wake Forest in the Gasparilla Bowl. This matchup is sure to back the stadium with the way Arkansas and Kansas seasons have transpired. This is the first meeting between these two teams in a neutral site game.
What History Does Arkansas Have?
Ultimately, Arkansas has participated in the Liberty Bowl five times, their first being in 1971, in a 14-13 loss to Tennessee. The Razorbacks would lose their second game in 1984 to Auburn, 21-15, and their third to Georgia, 20-17, in 1987. Arkansas would get their first win in the game, in 2010, with a 20-17 overtime win over East Carolina. Subsequently, Arkansas would get a 45-23 win over Kansas State, in 2016, in their most recent appearance in bluff city. With this being the sixth appearance for the Razorbacks, they now break the tie with Mississippi State as the only school to ever appear in the game six times.
This will be a battle between Arkansas and Kansas in the Liberty Bowl. Two teams are hungry for a win after seasons that had promise but didn’t finish the way they wanted.