Tyler Wilson is back! Tyler Wilson is back! Holy moly, it almost makes you forget that Alabama thumped Arkansas 52-0 last week. Or that John L. Smith doesn’t know what to say to the team after losing games except “smile”. Or that Smith declared bankruptcy and was $25.7 million in the hole. Yes, you can forget all of that because TYLER WILSON IS BACK! And that means that the Arkansas Razorbacks will win this weekend, right?
Uh, not so fast. Or, maybe.
Sitting at 1-2, Arkansas already has one more loss than was expected at this point in the season, and has more questions about the make-up of the team, its offensive scheming and the ongoing simplification of its defense. After an un-remarkable victory over Jacksonville State, a loss to Louisiana-Monroe and a goose egg against Alabama, there’s not a lot that Arkansas has done this season to give many fans a reason to think they can win any game.
That’s really not the case, though. The Hogs are now fighting to keep the season relevant and make a decent bowl game. Winning out from here is still a 10-2 season, and if 10 is too lofty, there are at least 5 “winnable” games still to play. The talent is there, but is the mental toughness there to propel the team to victory? This team seems to live and die according to if Tyler Wilson is on the field. With Wilson under center, the Hogs just may be able to overcome any defensive let down.
That theory will be put to the test this Saturday when the Hogs welcome the Rutgers Scarlet Knights from the Big East. Led by first-year head coach, Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights are undefeated at 3-0 and are not intimidated to play in Fayetteville. Rutgers have outscored their opponents 73-25 and are currently ranked #12 in total defense — only allowing opposing teams to gain on average 250 yards per game. Silver lining — those 3 wins were against Tulane (123rd in total offense), Division I FCS school Howard and South Florida (60th in total offense) — not necessarily offensive powerhouse football teams.
As mentioned, Rutgers is not intimidated and Flood has his squad ready with upset on their minds. Arkansas is simply looking to get their second win of the season before traveling to College Station next weekend. Which defense will break first?
Offensively: Uh, Tyler Wilson is back, so everything is better, right? That appears to be the common perception just hours after the announcement that Wilson was cleared to play. But all is not better. We all know that Tyler is willing to stand in and take the hits in order to deliver the perfect pass. But I’ll tell you right now, that if a “small” school like ULM can knock Wilson out of a game, then any team we play from now until the end of the season can do it, too. The big question going into Saturday’s game is how will the Hogs protect Wilson from Rutgers’ creative blitzing scheme? There are several ways — establishing a run game, quick slant passes and screen plays. As noted, the Rutgers defense is strong and their run defense is ranked in the top 10. If Wilson and his teammates can get things going quickly, they might be able to expose some holes in Rutgers’ scheme. Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino hasn’t shown us much in terms of versatility this season, but did his best to call out running back Knile Davis this week. The Hogs need to have a nice and balanced attack Saturday to keep pressure of of Wilson. And if they do that, the game could turn into a track meet.
Defensively: The Hogs defense this season has been abysmal. For the second week in a row, the Hogs are shifting players around at practice (Tenarius Wright will play both LB and DE), will have a new starting cornerback (Freshman Will Hines) in place of Darius Winston and again are trying to simplify their defensive scheme. On Saturday, the Razorbacks defense will have two orders. The first is to stop the Rutgers running game, aka, Jawan Jamison, who has racked up 373 yards and 2 TDs so far this season. Task number two, find and cover junior receiver Brandon Coleman — who is 6-6, has only 6 receptions and 3 TDs. The Rutgers offense is ranked 96th in the country, so they’re still looking for an offensive identity. If the Hogs can come out and make it hard for the Scarlet Knights to run, then the secondary will have their chance to prove themselves.
Special Teams: Last week Coach Smith put Arkansas into a quick hole when he made the decision to change deep snappers. Let’s hope that the Hogs have figured out their miscues during practice this week.
The weather in Fayetteville will be in the 70s and there’s currently no possibility of rain — hopefully that translates into a more upbeat tailgating scene. The Hogs need to get back on the winning track in a bad way, and they might do so in their white helmets. Rutgers is a team from the Big East that shouldn’t be overlooked — they won on the road at South Florida last weekend. With Tyler Wilson back in control of the offense, and subsequently the team, I think the Razorbacks will come out firing early and knock Rutgers off their feet. It won’t be an easy win, but the home crowd in Fayetteville will prove to be a much tougher venue than Tampa. The spread is currently Arkansas by 8, and that could be right on the money. Arkansas 38, Rutgers 30.
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 vs. Rutgers
Date: Saturday, Sept. 22
Time: 6 p.m. Central
Location: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville