If someone were to tell you that when Arkansas played Auburn and there were 8 sacks, 5 turnovers and Tyler Wilson didn’t throw a touchdown pass, who would you have guessed won the game? If it were me, I would’ve said anyone but Arkansas. Thankfully for head coach John L. Smith and the Razorbacks, the correct answer is Arkansas. Thanks to their 24-7 victory over Auburn, the Hogs’ 4-game losing streak is over and there is still a little fuel in the bowl game qualification gas tank.
In what appeared to be a coming out game for the Arkansas defense, the Hogs used a tuned-up blitzing scheme to decimate the young and inexperienced Auburn offensive line. Let’s hit those highlights again — 8 sacks, 5 turnovers and just over 320 total yards allowed. More importantly, the Hogs bucked their trend of allowing opposing quarterbacks to add numerous highlights to their reels. Had the Arkansas offense not stumbled a few times with two missed field goals and a third quarter to forget, the score should have been at least 6 points higher, if not more.
Some might think the Hogs have turned a corner in the season. My opinion is that Arkansas isn’t the worst team in the NCAA (they’re down there, defensively for sure), and they just happened to play an Auburn team that’s actually worse off.
And this week, it might get even better when the Kentucky Wildcats (1-5, 0-3 in SEC) limps into Fayetteville. In Kentucky’s six games this season, four have come against Top 25 teams (all losses). Their lone win came against Kent State and their other loss was a 32-31 overtime outcome against Western Kentucky. Wildcat head coach Joker Phillips is reportedly on the hot seat and his team is going through a tough stretch of injuries to players (sound familiar to any Arkansas fans?) — they’re down to their third string quarterback, missing two running backs and three starters from their secondary.
Saturday is going to be a battle of the battered and bruised — a matchup that pits two teams fairly close in terms of SEC rankings.
Here’s what the Hogs will need to do on Saturday to get their second SEC victory.
Offensively: Pass. The. Ball. Kentucky’s secondary and pass defense is bad, which is exactly what Wilson and the Arkansas receiving corp want to go up against. As mentioned, Wilson didn’t have a passing touchdown last week, but his efficiency was high in completing 74% of his passes. Last week also saw the resurgence of running back Dennis Johnson, who had been running well in previous games, but not utilized in the game planning. A major change for the offense last week was offensive coordinator Paul Petrino’s decision to move up into the coaches box instead of being on the sidelines. Granted, the Auburn Tiger defense wasn’t stellar by any means, but it allowed Petrino to see the field better. If Arkansas is able to move the ball on Kentucky through the air (and believe me, they should), then it can open up the running lanes for Johnson, Knile Davis or Jonathan Williams. Receiver Cobi Hamilton should have a huge day on Saturday and I expect Wilson to have at least 3 touchdowns through the air.
Defensively: Defensive coordinator’s plan against Auburn was to blitz them often, keep them unbalanced and make the Tigers beat them through the air. The plan worked as Arkansas was in the backfield all day long and the secondary came up with some timely interceptions. If you haven’t noticed, linebacker Ross Rasner is a common target for opposing offenses, which is a trend that is likely to increase as the season goes on. The good news, Kentucky’s blocking up front is about as good as Auburn’s, which means fans could see more of the same this weekend when the Hogs are on defense. More good news, cornerback Tevin Mitchell should be ready to play this weekend. But here’s some bad news — as if the Hogs weren’t hampered enough with injuries, both Alonzo Highsmith (linebacker) and Tenarius Wright (defensive end) are both lost for the season. Even though the Razorbacks are down on healthy players, Kentucky simply doesn’t look to have much firepower to fight back. It should be another pseudo-dominant performance by Haynes’ defense.
Special Teams: Boy, is Zach Hocker off his game so far this year. Even though he’s currently one of the best in field goal efficiency in the history of the Arkansas football program, there’s something not quite clicking for Hocker this season. I still believe he’s a good kicker and will work through this stretch, but it’s just one of those areas of the game you have to have working when the offense sputters out in the red zone. A field goal won’t decide this game, so no worries there.
With highs in the mid 70s and potential isolated thunderstorms, both Arkansas and Kentucky will hope to play a good, clean football game without any more injuries. With the Hogs still fighting for postseason possibilities, and being favored by 16 points, Arkansas should have a waltz in the park Saturday night. Arkansas 38, Kentucky 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 Kentucky
Date: Saturday, Oct. 13
Time: 6 p.m. Central
Location: Razorback Stadium – Fayetteville, Arkansas
Broadcast: Fox Sports South