Injuries have hit both teams hard heading into Saturday's game in The Swamp, but the Hogs are getting healthy at the right time, headed into the gauntlet that is an SEC schedule.
After the monstrosity of last season, the Razorbacks have responded to new Head Hog Bret Bielema. While the Razorbacks are better than the (3-2, 0-1) record indicates, they have enough talent and more heart than recent teams.
Last month I wrote a piece for SportingLifeArkansas.com that I believed that Arkansas would shock the SEC with a win against a team who was favored to win. Obviously I had a few to choose from. When I wrote that, I had Florida, ranked No. 18 this week, in mind. That was before Jeff Driskel going down with a season-ending injury. No one can foresee these things and certainly no one wants them to take place.
But the reasons I believe Florida is ripe for the upset are based on what we have seen from both squads:
- Florida does not have an explosive offense.
- Arkansas' offense, much like Florida's, will keep them in games in which they are outmatched. (See last week's game vs aTm).
- Arkansas' defense ranks fourth in the SEC, sandwiched between Alabama and LSU. Florida's defense is ranked No. 1 in the SEC and it's not close.
With Florida's offense providing just enough (averaging 23.7 points), the Gators have yet to see a defense like Arkansas' this season. And that includes Miami, who handed in-state rival Florida a loss earlier this season. Arkansas has shown sparks even with the absence of Brandon Allen, but last week gave us all a glimpse that it can score in a number of ways (averaging 29.2 points).
With both offense's being similar, look for this to be a quick game. The Gators and Hogs have been stingy with the ball this season, Florida ranking first in T.O.P. and the Razorbacks ranking 13th nationally.
Defense will be the name of the game this Saturday. With Arkansas' front four healthy, and Chris Smith (6.0 sacks) and Trey Flowers (3.0) on the prowl, it would behoove Tyler Murphy to look both ways before taking the snap.
Florida's defense hasn't seen a two-headed monster like Arkansas' rushing attack this season. Alex Collins and Johnathan Williams have been a pleasant surprise for Hog fans this season, showing flashes of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. While Tyler Murphy has done enough for the Gators to win, there is a discrepancy between he and Driskel. Hog fans saw it with Brandon Allen and A.J. Derby. While he has been efficient, it seems as if the playbook may be limited for Murphy.
With both head coaches sharing a similar philosophy, I expect a physical game that will provide traditionalists primo entertainment. This will undoubtedly be a smash mouth football game, so boys and girls you better buckle the chin straps and put the big boy pants on. If Arkansas can continue its trend of 29 points per game, and the defense can capitalize on any mistakes by Murphy, the Hogs have a fair shot, barring a Mark Curles appearance, the swamp will be filled with Gator fans' tears.
And speaking of tears, a Florida defensive tackle, Damien Jacobs, has already started crying about how Arkansas' OL is dirty. And they are, if by dirty you mean putting you on your butt after telling you which direction they are running. And its rather ironic that Florida players are whining about an opponent being dirty. No one has forgotten Brandon Spikes and his eye gouging antics. I could go on and on, but I won't. Because win or lose, Arkansas Razorback players won't cry or whine.
By Damien Jacobs stating that he believes the Hog OL is dirty, that tells me he is concerned. And Gator fans should be now. Because if he is focused on the Hogs OL being mean to him, he won't focus on Alex Collins or Johnathan Williams flying by him. So, go ahead, Mr. Jacobs, cry away. You and the rest of the hand chopping ilk that will slither into the swamp on Saturday will be crying for a completely different reason come Saturday night.
But I'm sure if you ask him really nice, offensive coordinator Brent Pease will take you on a nature walk to clear your mind on Sunday morning.
After reading this, or in Florida grads case, had it read to you, you may not agree and that's OK, because it's America, where calling the Hogs is a privilege and you can be as wrong as you like. WOOOOOOOO PIG SOOOOOOIIEEEEEE!!!!!!! #NeverYield