Last week I predicted that Arkansas would trounce Ole Miss. That was wrong. I also said that if Arkansas let Ole Miss hang around, it could boil down to the fourth quarter. I wish that wasn’t what happened. But, it did, and luckily our boys escaped Oxford with a win. This was the fourth time, in as many games, that Arkansas was in a hole early. It’s a great thing the Razorbacks’ offense is capable of putting up some points, because they wouldn’t have won three of those four without it.
Before the season started, the Arkansas defense was getting high marks all over the place — and knowing that a majority of the kids had been playing three years in the SEC, well, it was easy to buy into the hype. While Coach Robinson is highly capable of making second half adjustments and righting the ship defensively, these early 17-and 18-point deficits could quickly derail an already fine season.
We all know what the matchup with LSU at the end of the regular season could mean for Arkansas’ BCS chances. But if Coach Petrino and Robinson can’t get the players to come out with more energy to start a game, and perhaps a better game plan, then that LSU game may not even matter come Thanksgiving.
The first half last week against Ole Miss was brutal. What’s worse, for us Arkansas fans that know of Coach Nutt’s style, we all knew that once he found a play that worked, he would milk it to death. Why it took an entire half and 17 unanswered points by OLE MISS before Coach Robinson could correct things is beyond me. I’m hoping it’s not a trend, but the last four games suggest otherwise. If that’s really the case, Coach Petrino, Tyler Wilson and the Arkansas offense had better be ready to attack without flaw almost every chance they get.
This weekend the Hogs travel to Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores in what’s being billed as a “something’s gotta give” matchup between the SEC’s top passing attack versus the SEC’s top secondary. First year coach James Franklin has the Commodores thinking bowl game and they would love to knock off Arkansas to further bolster their resumé.
Offensively – Tyler Wilson and the stable of receivers need to be extra sharp (Vanderbilt already has 15 interceptions this season). Coach Franklin says that preparing for Arkansas has been tough because of the speed, and all of the weapons, the Razorbacks have. None of that will matter, though, if the Hogs can’t establish the run. Last week, Dennis Johnson had a career day after running for 160 yards. Even if you take away his 52-yard TD scamper, Johnson eclipsed the 100-yard mark. That, my friends, is a good thing. Even if it was against the lowly Ole Miss defense, this shows the Arkansas line that they can run the ball effectively. Vanderbilt is allowing 132 yards per game on the ground, which might bode well for the Hogs. I expect the ‘Dores to pressure Wilson, so the quick short pass and passes over the middle might be open all day. That means Jarius Wright and Joe Adams might have huge days for the Hogs. I don’t think the long ball will be there, which isn’t a big deal since Wilson has had issues leading his receivers in recent weeks. Once again, the key will be the offensive line and Coach Petrino taking what the defense gives us.
Defensively – The Arkansas defense is still looking for its signature game. So far, the weakness has been opponents’ rushing (the Hogs are allowing at least 183 yards per game). Unfortunately, Vandy averages 160 yards per game on the ground. In the air, the Commodores just pulled in a new quarterback last week — Jordan Rodgers (younger brother to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers). Jordan hasn’t done that much on the field (2 TDs and 5 INTs), but he provided a spark last week and helped Vanderbilt break their three-game losing streak. Realistically, the Commodores don’t have a lot of playmakers offensively (they only have 72 plays of more than 10 yards all season, that’s 8th fewest in the FBS), but both Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy can run the ball effectively. My guess as to the game plan would be to focus on stopping the run and allowing our secondary to make plays when needed. As to what Coach Robinson actually has planned … no clue.
Since the near tragedy last week, Coach Petrino has been stressing the need for Arkansas to get rolling a lot quicker. Several media outlets are seeing this game in Nashville as a trap game for the Hogs even though the current spread favors Arkansas by 11. If you ask me, it won’t be close. I think the Hogs will come out focused and ready to squash Vanderbilt with a nitpicking pass attack and a keep-em-off-balance rushing game. Yeah, the defense may get off to a slow start, but hopefully Vandy won’t rattle off too many points before halftime. Maybe with a convincing win on the road, the BCS will rethink why they dropped Arkansas from 9th to 10th during a week where two Top 10 teams lost. Final prediction Arkansas 38, Vanderbilt, 17.
Let us know what you think the final score will be. If you’re the closest (see rules below), you’ll get a free t-shirt from Bearstate Supply.
How to enter
Leave a comment with your game prediction. If you want to add anything else, please feel free.
What you’ll win
One t-shirt of your choice (design, color, size) from the Bearstate Supply online store. (Hoodies, ringers and tri-blend AA’s not included)
- You only may enter this specific contest once.
- Contests are open to anyone anywhere except staff of Fayetteville Flyer and their immediate family members.
- The winning entry must pick the winning team and have the smallest combined difference from each team’s final score. Example: If the Razorbacks win by a score of 21-7, and your prediction was Razorbacks 20-10, your difference would be 1 + 3 = 4. In the event of a tie, a winner will be selected by a random drawing.
- You must pick the score by 15 minutes before kickoff for each game.
- Make sure you leave a valid e-mail address when filling out the comment form since that’s how we’ll contact you if you’ve won.
Arkansas at Ole Miss
Date: Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011
Time: 11:21 a.m.
Location: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network / ESPN3