IRVING, Texas -- Kansas State and Arkansas don't have much in common.
Outside of a top-10 ranking, the first time the Cotton Bowl has hosted such a matchup in 18 years, there's one big similarity: Neither would have been here without Texas A&M.
Hogs coach Bobby Petrino made that clear.
"We came into halftime and we were down 18 points, but our team rallied together. Our leadership really showed up," Petrino said.
Arkansas rallied from the 35-17 deficit at halftime to win 42-38 in the final minutes.
"There have been times in my career when you come in at halftime and you are down like that and people want to point fingers and put blame on somebody else. But it was all positive," Petrino said. "You had [receiver] Jarius Wright telling the offense we needed to find a way to rally and get the ball in the end zone. We had our defensive coaches doing a great job of making adjustments. To be able to really bring out the competitive spirit that our team showed from that point on, I think carried us throughout the season."
Kansas State, meanwhile, rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final six minutes to force overtime in Manhattan against the Aggies. Four overtimes later, the Wildcats stood tall, as 53-50 victors in what was arguably the best game in Big 12 history.
After two consecutive losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats needed a win badly. They got it.
"It was a great comeback," Bill Snyder said. "It really solidified the direction that we were going at that time."
Snyder pointed at a dramatic road win over Miami that featured a goal-line stand in the final seconds as the turning point for K-State's season, but the importance of the A&M win was clear.
The Wildcats wouldn't lose again during the regular season, closing the year with close wins over Texas and Iowa State to notch the program's first 10-win season since 2003.
Considering the season began with a fourth-quarter comeback, it's easy to see why Snyder thinks this year's team "has probably come as far as any football team we’ve had up to this point in time."
The Aggies also helped Arkansas reach a 10-win season, preventing a second consecutive loss after Alabama knocked off the Hogs in Tuscaloosa. It even made a big impact on Snyder.
"Watching the tape of the A&M/Arkansas ballgame really gave me a truly dramatic and startling understanding of what Arkansas football was really all about," Snyder said.
Friday, when the two teams meet with matching top 10 rankings and 10-2 records, he'll see for himself, too.