Showing improvement Razorbacks’ goal against Auburn

I’m afraid Saturday’s going to be a tough one for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

In fact, the next month is going to be taxing on the Hogs and their fans.

Arkansas (1-2) faces No. 9 Auburn (2-1) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in an SEC Network-televised game in which the Hogs are four-touchdown underdogs or more.

As you no doubt know, Arkansas then faces No. 22 Texas A&M at Arlington, No. 1 Alabama in Fayetteville, and then Ole Miss in Little Rock in succession.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: at Auburn
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22
Where: Auburn, Alabama
TV: SEC Network

Remaining Schedule

Sept. 29 – Texas A&M at Dallas
Oct. 6 – Alabama
Oct. 13 – Ole Miss at Little Rock
Oct. 20 – Tulsa
Oct. 27 – Vanderbilt
Nov. 10 – LSU
Nov. 17 – at Mississippi State
Nov. 23 – at Missouri

There is no real daylight in Arkansas’ schedule until Oct. 20 when the Hogs play Tulsa in Fayetteville in the eighth game of the season.

We all like to think anything can happen in college football, but based on the way the Razorbacks have played through the first fourth of the season, there is no way the Razorbacks are going to pull off an upset. Most of you are probably laughing at me for even mentioning the possibility.

So, how as a Razorback do you get up for this ballgame and try to enjoy the three and a half to four hours you’re going to spend watching it?

If you are waiting for an answer from me, I don’t have one. I was hoping you might have some ideas.

I had a longtime, knowledgeable fellow Razorback fan tell me this week that he had seen some tough times since he began following the Razorbacks as a boy in the 1960s, but that he had never felt like Arkansas was a “third-world program” before like he does now after back-to-back losses to Colorado State and North Texas.

I heard another person joke that maybe the Hogs should adjust their name to the Northwest Arkansas Razorbacks. He surmised if the Razorbacks were going to play like a directional school, they might as well be called one.

Over-the-top Fox radio personality Clay Travis, who loves to kick programs and their fans when they are down, opined that the Razorbacks are so bad that the SEC should kick them out of the league or at least sanction the Hogs with standards they need to meet to stay in the league.

It was bad in the 1990s when the Hogs were losing to Memphis and SMU on a regular basis, but unless we see some rather drastic improvement by the Razorbacks, particularly on the offensive side of the football, the next month and perhaps the rest of the season is going to be tantamount to torture for Hog fans.

The Razorbacks have too many issues on offense to believe first-year coach Chad Morris and his staff can turn things around in just a week. However, there can be improvement. That’s what I’m looking for out of the Hogs Saturday night.

It’s good that left offensive tackle Colton Jackson is supposedly returning to the starting lineup. We’ll see if the reported move of Hjalte Forholdt back to guard and shuffling Ty Clary to center will make a difference. Hopefully they will perform well enough as a group with right tackle Brian Wallace and right guard Johnny Gibson that Arkansas can establish a consistent starting lineup. That’s the only way they can learn to play as a unit. Maybe then we can see some improvement in the running game.

Any improvement in the running game will make the passing game better and the team as a whole more confident.

Last week, it was troubling to watch how out of sync quarterback Cole Kelley was with his receivers. There were some major malfunctions. The easy thing is to lay it all off on the quarterback position.

Morris said on Monday that the offense would be simplified to the point where the Hogs would be able to execute the plays they do elect to run. That would be nice to see, but even very good offenses are going to have trouble executing against a front seven like Auburn’s.

As for quarterback, Morris doesn’t have a good option, but at the moment Ty Storey is his best.
Storey does not have a major-college arm, but he does understand and execute the offense better than Kelley.

Some want to see one of the freshmen start. Last week offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said Connor Noland was the third-teamer. At some point this season, Noland might end up being the starter, but now is not the time. He needs more in-game grooming before being thrust into a starting role if that ever is to happen.

However, if this game gets out of hand, Morris should definitely get him some playing time to help continue judge if it would be better to redshirt him or possibly play him more this season.

On the defensive side of the football, the search continues for a cornerback to hold his own opposite Ryan Pulley. Otherwise, the defense has played decently or at least better than the last two years when not put in bad situations by turnovers and the offense’s overall ineffectiveness.

That said, Arkansas has yet to play a team anywhere close to as talented as Auburn, and Tiger quarterback Jarrett Stidham has to be eager to get a shot at the Razorbacks. Maybe he’ll be overeager and make some mistakes?

To sum it up, my expectations for Saturday certainly isn’t a victory, but it would be good to see some improvement by the Razorbacks.

The rumor is that Morris is taking a more hands-on approach with the game planning this week. Morris claimed on Monday that he is certain he knows offensive football. Hopefully, we’ll get more evidence of that knowledge this Saturday than we have the past two weeks.