Little Rock has been unkind to the Razorbacks this year. And if last week’s game versus Ole Miss didn’t seal the fate of Arkansas’ post season chances, well, one more loss will almost assuredly do so (especially with three of their last four games coming against ranked teams — two on the road). Yes, we’ve already discussed how upsetting this season has been, but it’s dipping to new depths now and Arkansas could very well end up with a worse record than former head coach Bobby Petrino’s first season.
Standing in the way of a victory this week is Tulsa, who are currently 7-1 (5-0 in Conference USA). The Golden Hurricane are lead by second year head coach Bill Blankenship, and have been a fairly well-oiled offensive machine over the past few seasons. In fact, over the past three years, Tulsa has been ranked in the top 30 for scoring offense. Traditionally, Tulsa features a pass-heavy attack, but that has changed this year where their rushing attack sets the tone to the tune of almost 250 yards each game.
Let’s be honest, almost any team the Hogs play now will be scary. But let’s be more honest, when defensive coordinator Paul Haynes says stuff like this, it’s not hard to understand why some Razorback fans have given up all hope:
They can break out and have a big passing game, but they’re a running team and they will be a challenge for us.
This is Tulsa we’re talking about. Tulsa.
But we’re also talking about Arkansas, who haven’t shown much
discipline structure drive of anything on defense this season.
To make things harder on the Arkansas offense, the Hogs will be without wide receiver Brandon Mitchell (internal issue), tight end Chris Gragg (knee) and running back Knile Davis (hamstring). Here’s some good news, defensive tackle DeQuinta Jones will be back for the Hogs and should add a little pep to the defensive rotation.
The Hogs are about out of chances to become bowl eligible. This game against Tulsa is winnable, how will homecoming treat Arkansas on Saturday?
Offensively: First off, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson has to be smarter with the ball. Last week he was forcing throws, which led to some interceptions. Lucky for Wilson and receiver Cobi Hamilton, the Tulsa passing defense is atrocious — allowing 260+ yards through the air per game. The Golden Hurricanes’ rushing defense, however, is currently 26th in the country while only allowing 121 yards a game. That means yardage for running backs Dennis Johnson and Jonathan Williams might be hard to come by. But if the passing game can keep the linebackers honest, it could open up some holes for running the ball. The one big concern is Tulsa’s pass rush. The Golden Hurricane currently rank first in the country with 4+ sacks per game. For an offensive line that’s had issues protecting Wilson, this raises around 77 red flags. Ultimately, I don’t think Tulsa can hang with our passing offense and the Hogs may not have to worry too much about running it — perhaps only to help control tempo and to keep the defense fresh. Hamilton should have another big game. So, too, should Wilson.
Defensively: This game will be decided, once again, with the Arkansas defense. It’s a simple premise, will the good rushing offense outperform the good rushing defense, or vice versa? Arkansas is currently ranked 30th in rushing defense, allowing 123 yards a game. So something is going to give. When running backs Alex Singleton (495 yards, 15 TDs) or Ja’Terian Douglas (702 yards, 6 TDs) aren’t toting the ball, it’s usually in the hands of quarterback Cody Green. While Green isn’t really going to beat you through the air (166 yards per game, 10 TDs, 6 INTs), the top four receivers for Tulsa all measure 6’2″ in height, or more — which could lead to some mismatches. If the Hogs can stop the run and make Tulsa become a one-dimensional passing team, that would bode well for an Arkansas win. But I have about as much faith in Haynes’ defense right now as I do in my pinky finger bench pressing 500 lbs.
Special Teams: Zach Hocker and Dylan Breeding are still doing great in the kicking game. But it’s Arkansas’ return game and overall special teams play that’s severely lacking. Last week the Hogs allowed a blocked punt and their return teams are virtually non-existant — they average 6+ yards per punt return, 18.75 yards per kickoff return and currently have 0 TDs on the season in either category. Let me remind you that head coach John L. Smith used to be Arkansas’ special teams coach, how can there be such a shift in return dominance in one season with the same coach on staff?
The weather for the first Saturday in November will be nice and sunny where 65 is the expected high. Tulsa is coming into the game with a seven-game winning streak. The Hogs are once again searching for answers. There are no more walks in the park for Arkansas — it’s sink or swim time. The Hogs are favored by 9 points. Arkansas 35, Tulsa 28.
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. Tulsa
Date: Saturday, Nov. 3
Time: 11:21 a.m. Central
Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium – Fayetteville, Arkansas
Broadcast: SEC Network, ESPN3