FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas got its first taste of the Bowl Championship Game experience last season, enjoying its time in the Sugar Bowl spotlight.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas got its first taste of the Bowl Championship Game experience last season, enjoying its time in the Sugar Bowl spotlight.

The Razorbacks aren’t part of college football’s prestigious postseason lineup after losses to Alabama and LSU this season. But they can’t tell any difference as they prepare to play Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.

“It feels like a BCS game to me,” Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg said earlier this month.

Arkansas, which will hold its seventh postseason practice today, said its Jan. 6 date against the Wildcats looks, sounds and feels every bit like its BCS experience in the 31-26 loss to Ohio State last season.

The game features a matchup between top 10 teams who put together BCS-worthy resumes. It will be played in Cowboys Stadium, regarded as one of football’s most glamorous venue. And it’s slated for a primetime kickoff with no other games on during the 7 p.m. time slot.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said all are reasons why there’s no shortage of anticipation from the Razorbacks even though they fell short of their preseason goals of reaching an actual BCS game again.

“When you think of BCS, the first thing I think of is Top 10 teams,” Wilson said. “There’s a way the BCS is arranged they don’t put some of the Top 10 teams in the BCS games. So, really, it’s a BCS matchup. I think a lot of people around the country will be tuned in.”

Arkansas-Kansas State is one of four top 10 matchups during the bowl season, joining three BCS games — LSU-Alabama (BCS championship game), Oklahoma State-Stanford (Fiesta Bowl), and Oregon-Wisconsin (Rose Bowl).

The Sugar Bowl pits No. 11 Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Michigan, while No. 15 Clemson will play No. 23 West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. So the Cotton Bowl will feature higher-ranked teams than two BCS games.

“We’re glad to go there,” Arkansas linebacker Jerico Nelson said. “That’s where they picked us to go.

“Even though we’re not in a BCS game, we look at it still (as one). When you look at the Sugar Bowl, the teams playing there aren’t ranked higher than us.”

The game, at this point, is being treated by many as one of this winter’s most intriguing matchups.

ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach recently rated the Cotton Bowl as the fifth-best game on the schedule behind the BCS Championship Game, the Fiesta Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. His ranking for the Cotton Bowl was higher than one BCS game — the Orange Bowl.

John Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News went even further last week, calling the Cotton Bowl the best of the bunch outside the national title game - period.

“It’s a great matchup,” Arkansas guard Alvin Bailey said. “They’ve won a lot of games, and so have we. They feel like they could have gone to the BCS also.

“It’s going to be a good, hard-fought game.”

Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright believes one other reason for intrigue is the contrasting styles.

Kansas State’s ground-oriented offense, which is led by quarterback Collin Klein, will be a big test for an Arkansas run defense that struggled to stop opponents this season. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, believe they’ll have opportunities for big plays against a defense that is ranked No. 104 in the nation against the pass.

“I definitely think there will be a lot of scoring going on,” Wright said. “It’s the Big 12. I mean, I don’t want to say anything bad, but the Big 12 is not known for defense. They’re known for passing.

“We like to throw the ball. They don’t like to play as much defense. So we’ll see how it goes.”

A strong performance in the Cotton Bowl should wrap up Arkansas’ first top five ranking in the final polls since 1977, which also was the last time the Razorbacks won 11 games in a season. It could serve as a springboard for 2012, helping the Hogs potentially earn a top 5 ranking in preseason polls as well.

So, no, Arkansas is not playing Kansas State in a BCS game this season. But when Wilson examined everything at stake against the Wildcats on Jan. 6, he said the Cotton Bowl means just as much to the Razorbacks this season.

“If you’re complaining about being in the Top 10, playing a Top 10 opponent you’ve got something wrong with you,” Wilson said. “Who doesn’t want to play on a Top 10 stage with something to prove?”