Prediction contest: Arkansas vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Update: The final score was Louisiana-Monroe 34, Arkansas 31. Since nobody picked the winning team, there is no contest winner this week. What a bummer.

One down, eleven to go. Even though the scoreboard read 49-24 in last week’s win over Jacksonville State, many believe the Arkansas Razorbacks played well below their season expectations. Sure, the offense moved the ball with 564 total yards, but it also looked bad to the tune of three turnovers. Additionally, the upgraded defense (more specifically, the secondary) didn’t bode that well in allowing three 75+ yard drives for touchdowns — and two of which that were under 2:00 in length.

I’m not ready to question the mental toughness of the players on the team. This was the first game of the season and the score could’ve easily been in the 60s for the Hogs were it not for the three fumbles. Moreso, who’s to say that Jacksonville State is that bad of a team? I will say that if the Hogs continue to play below their high expectations this weekend in their second tune-up for Alabama (who, if you didn’t notice, already looks to be in championship form with their 41-14 drubbing of then #8 Michigan), it might be time to start questioning the toughness of the coaching under head coach John L. Smith.

But before we start to second guess Jeff Long’s decision to hire Smith, let’s see how the entire team rebounds Saturday against the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.  This will be the Warhawks’ first game of the season, and it’ll be a tough test seeing as ULM hasn’t won a game against Arkansas in nine tries.

Offensively: The Warhawks are only returning five defensive starters from last season — which should have Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino, Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis licking their collective chops. Traditionally, ULM has been a run-blitzing team and last year, their defense only allowed 100 yards rushing, on average, per game. If the Warhawks’ strategy is to stack the box, then expect Petrino to air it out. Last week, Arkansas’ receivers Brandon Mitchell and Javontee Hearndon and tight end Chris Gragg each had incredible games after Cobi Hamilton went out in the first quarter with an “above the shoulders” injury. But, if history tells us anything, Hamilton should shine while playing in Little Rock, where over the six games he’s played there, he’s averaging 100+ yards and a TD per game.

Defensively: ULM returns dual-threat quarterback Kolton Browning, who nearly had 3,000 all-purpose yards in 2011 and accounted for 18 TDs. Browning’s top two receivers, Brent Leonard and Tavarese Maye, return after combining for 119 receptions in 2011. That could spell trouble for Arkansas’ secondary if the defensive line can’t get some early pressure and containment on Browning. Cornerback Darius Winston was pulled in the first quarter last Saturday, which, unfortunately, adds to his long story of high upside with low returns. The defense should bounce back this weekend with a well-rounded effort, but they’ll probably allow another long drive before they get their act together. Look for linebacker Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright to have big games.

Special Teams: Junior kicker Zach Hocker picked up where he left off last year with seven extra points last week and sailed 6 out of 8 kickoffs for touchbacks. Senior punter Dylan Breeding didn’t do much work last week, and shouldn’t have much work to do this week, either. Senior kickoff returner Dennis Johnson returned well last Saturday averaging 24 yards a return. Don’t be surprised to see a return touchdown this week from Johnson, Keante Minor or Nate Holmes.

With a high of 84 in Little Rock, it should be a near perfect day for football. This won’t be snoozer until late in the third quarter, Arkansas will win it [take your pick: easily – handily – crazily], and the Warhawks will go home with an 0-1 record and $500,000 in their wallet. Arkansas 55, Louisiana-Monroe 14.

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)

The rules

  • 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.

Good luck!

Arkansas vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Date: Saturday, Sept. 8
Time: 6 p.m. Central
Location: War Memorial Stadium (Little Rock, AR)
Broadcast: Pay-Per-View and/or ESPNU

Bearstate Supply