Knowing the Enemy
Record 5-4 Overall, 3-2, SEC
The Arkansas Razorbacks started the season losing three of their first four games. They have won four of their last five. Times have changed. The Hogs visit Tiger Stadium Saturday after an improbable win against Ole Miss, after displaying something which they have not done much in the past, a devastating play action passing game.
In the Ole Miss contest, Arkansas senior quarterback Brandon Allen threw for a career high 442 yards and six touchdowns. Allen was 33 of 45 passing, a staggering 73 percent completion rate. Sixty percent or more of those passes were play action. This paralyzed an Ole Miss defense geared to stop Arkansas’s running attack. The Ole Miss performance entrenched Allen in second place in the SEC in passing yardage, and 20th in the nation in the same category. He has thrown for 2476 yards for the season. Allen is not the most physically gifted fellow, but he is hardnosed and very efficient.
His receivers are not the four or five star types but they are also efficient. They run good routes and catch passes when thrown to them.
Junior Drew Morgan had nine receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown in the Ole Miss game. Morgan has 44 receptions for 620 yards for the season, averaging 14.9 yards per catch, fifth in the conference. He leads all SEC receivers with nine touchdown catches. Junior wide receiver Dominique Reed is the third leading receiver on the team with 342 yards in receptions for the campaign. Reed averages 19 yards per grab.
The Arkansas tight ends are, as usual, very prominent in the Hog scheme. Juniors Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle are second and fourth respectively on the team in receiving. Henry has 469 yards receiving this year, averaging 13 yards per catch. Sprinkle has 261 yards in receptions this campaign, averaging 15.4 yards per grab. These two fellows are also good blockers.
Redshirt freshman receiver JoJo Robinson, perhaps the most physically talented receiver on the team, is under an indefinite suspension at the time of this writing.
Why can Arkansas pass so well?
They have a running back named Alex Collins. This year he has rushed for 1068 yards. Collins lives in the shadows of Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry, but this is the third straight year the junior has rushed for more than 1000 yards. He is third in the SEC and 13th in the land in running. He averages 5.8 yards per carry. Arkansas also has junior Cody Walker, a bruising back who run when Collins is not in the game.
Why do the Hogs run so well?
They have a good, mammoth offensive line, an offensive line that averages 6’7 and 328 pounds per man. Once again, this is the biggest offensive line in college or professional ball. The best of the bunch is 6’10, 330 pound junior right tackle Dan Skipper, and 6’5, 334 senior left guard Sebastian Tretola.
Good offensive line + good running game + good play action passing game = dangerous offensive team.
Arkansas is not a good defensive team. They give up 413 yards per game. They allow 6.3 yards per play. Their run defense has not been that bad. They have allowed 1165 yards on the ground this season. This is an average of 129 yards per game. Five other teams in the SEC are stingier on run defense.
Junior middle linebacker Brooks Ellis is the leading tackler with 74 stops, 36 unassisted. Junior defensive end Jerimiah Ledbetter has 6.5 tackles for losses, tfls, for the season. Senior defensive lineman DeMarcus Hodge has 5.0 tfls this year.
The Arkansas secondary has been lousy. It has given up 2,552 yards by air this season. This averages out to 283.5 yards per contest, worst in the SEC.
--Arkansas has played in three overtime games this year and have won two.
--In their last four wins they have averaged 48.3 points per game.
--In 2015, Arkansas has more passing yardage than rushing yardage.
The Razorbacks come to Tiger Stadium Saturday fighting to become bowl eligible. In addition, Arkansas is still mathematically alive to win the SEC West. A month ago this prospect seemed impossible, but that was a month ago. This is now.
The Tiger defense needs to be prepared, because, in reality, the Purple and Goal defense has not been great all season long. They will need to be good Saturday night.