Arkansas and Kansas meet in the Liberty Bowl on Wednesday, and plenty will be on the line for at least one of these upstart programs. The Jayhawks are playing in their first bowl game in nearly 15 years under second-year coach Lance Leipold after finishing 3-5 in Big 12 play. Kansas' dynamic wide-zone offense finished No. 3 in the Big 12 in scoring offense.
Arkansas also features a dynamic offense, but the Razorbacks finished middle of the pack in the SEC thanks to a handful of major injuries, particularly at quarterback. Still, running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders finished No. 2 in the SEC in yards rushing during a breakout season.
Despite being separated by just 267 miles, Kansas and Arkansas have played just twice in program history -- and not since 1906. The Jayhawks won the previous two matchups by a combined 43-5 when both programs competed as independents. More than 100 years later, the situations are a little different.
How to watch Liberty Bowl live
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 28 | Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Location: Liberty Bowl -- Memphis, Tennessee
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Arkansas vs. Kansas: Need to know
Miraculous turnaround: Kansas was perhaps the worst Power Five program in college football in the 2010s, but Leipold turned the program into a winner in his first full offseason with the program. The Jayhawks reached bowl eligibility and won multiple Big 12 games for the first time since 2008. The three conference wins matches the same amount since 2017 under Les Miles and David Beaty. Kansas beat Oklahoma State, Duke and Houston -- all of which ended up as bowl teams -- en route to the postseason and a bright future.
Disappointing turn: Arkansas was projected as a potential SEC West spoiler heading into 2021, but injuries and close-game luck ultimately cost the Razorbacks a special season. Four of the Razorbacks' losses came by three points or less, including an unbelievable missed field goal vs. Texas A&M on Sept. 24. Ultimately, Arkansas barely eked out bowl eligibility. Despite missing multiple receivers, the Liberty Bowl is an opportunity for Arkansas' offense to find some momentum heading into a critical 2023 campaign.
Quarterback battle: Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson announced plans to return in 2023, making him perhaps the top returning quarterback in the SEC. Jefferson has 5,037 career yards passing, 43 touchdowns and just eight interceptions over the past two years, along with more than 1,100 yards rushing and 13 scores. However, Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels has emerged as one of the stars of college football in the past 12 months after leading the Jayhawks to a 5-0 start before suffering a shoulder injury. Daniels posted 19 touchdowns and just two interceptions in just eight games and should have the Jayhawks offense humming.
Liberty Bowl prediction, picks
Motivation is a huge predictor of success in bowl games, and there couldn't be a bigger gap between these two programs heading into the Liberty Bowl. Kansas has an opportunity to win its first bowl game since the 2008 Insight Bowl under former coach Mark Mangino. There's little concern about opt outs or playing through injuries with a program that has lived in such depths. Prediction: Kansas +2.5
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