Bowl Breakdown: Liberty
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett leads talented offense
Key for East Carolina will be to bully Razorbacks O-line
If Arkansas can keep pace of game fast, ECU won't keep up
East Carolina (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5)
Reason To Watch: Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound sophomore, a transfer from Michigan, leads an ascendant Razorbacks offense that is hitting its stride in head coach Bobby Petrino's second season. Arkansas, with a raft of talented young playmakers on offense, led the SEC in scoring last fall. After just one year with the Razorbacks, Mallett is already a hot name on NFL draft boards. He has so far declined to say whether he will declare for next spring's NFL draft. This will either be your last chance to see him play as a collegian, or serve as his audition for inclusion among the list of favorites for the 2010 Heisman Trophy..
Keep An Eye On: The Arkansas offensive line. ECU has a talented defensive front led by end C.J. Wilson and 6-foot-6, 322-pound nose-guard Linval Joseph. If the Hogs' hogs -- the weakest part of a high-powered offense -- can't keep the Pirates' pass rushers off of Mallett, then East Carolina has a live chance for victory. The Pirates play fundamentally sound football, and are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the Razorbacks on both sides of the ball.
Did You Know?: Both East Carolina and Arkansas are a combined 1-5 in Liberty Bowls since 1971. The Pirates beat Stanford 19-13 in 1995.
Final Analysis: This game will be a struggle for control. The Razorbacks are going to want to keep the tempo fast, while ECU is going to want to slow things down. I'm betting that the Hogs are going to win this battle of wills. Arkansas has enough talented receivers, including Greg Childs and tight end D.J. Williams, that if there is any protection available for Mallett, he is likely to have a big day.
The Pick: Arkansas 35, East Carolina 24.
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