Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith might be the first person to utter the words “up tempo” and “Kansas State” in the same sentence.
The Wildcats are famous for their methodical approach on offense. They try to eat up as much time as possible between plays, often waiting until the play clock is about to expire to snap the ball. It’s Bill Snyder’s way of surveying a defense, calling the best play and controlling clock against explosive teams that operate at a breakneck pace.
Compared to most Big 12 teams, Snyder jokes that K-State’s offense will put you to sleep.
Yet Smith insists K-State may try to buck that trend and go fast against Arkansas on Jan. 2. To that end, he wants the Razorbacks to be prepared for anything the Wildcats throw at them.
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“Tempo is one of the things we have seen throughout the season and something teams have tried to use against us,” Smith said during a news conference leading up to the Liberty Bowl. “When you are in bowl prep, you try to take everything and look at what you have done and what other teams have done to you. When you find an issue that has flared up, you want to go back and cover that.
“We are prepared for all tempos against Kansas State.”
That preparation will likely go to waste.
K-State’s offense operated at a turtle’s pace this season, running 829 plays. That number ranks ahead of only Texas in the Big 12 and 98th nationally. By comparison, Baylor topped 1,100 plays.
Unless the Wildcats were in catch-up mode or frantically trying to score at the end of a half, they kept things slow and piled up possession time. A sudden change in that philosophy seems unfathomable.
“Defensive coaches, by nature, try to think of everything,” Smith said. “You never want to get caught out there in a situation you are not prepared for. Most defenses across the country are trying to uncover every stone. That is the way college football is headed.”
This game figures to be different.
Arkansas took a similar approach to K-State on offense this season, running 818 plays. The Liberty Bowl could be have a throwback feel to it, with both teams valuing possession more than total plays.
“They are a tough, hard-nosed team just like us,” Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis said. “It is going to be a good game.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett