October 5, 2013

Game Week: Arkansas Breakdown



Looking to make it three wins in a row, while remaining undefeated in league play, No. 18 Florida faces off against Arkansas Saturday evening in the Swamp. Inside the Gators has the very latest on the match-up in this Game Week Breakdown. Guerry Smith breaks down Arkansas with his answers to five burning questions as well previewing five Razorbacks players Gator fans should keep an eye on this weekend.

BURNING QUESTIONS: Guerry Smith provides answers to these
five burning questions
1) How is Arkansas' pass defense?

You never would have gotten this question first when Jeff Driskel was starting, but the way unheralded Tyler Murphy has played the last two weeks, it's a significant topic. Johnny Manziel had his way with the Razorbacks through the air, but that's to be expected. Other than him, Arkansas has not faced a competent passer. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova threw for 346 yards but was not very efficient doing it, completing barely half of his passes. Southern Miss, Samford and Louisiana-Lafayette provided no real test. The key for Florida will be protection. The Hogs have 15 sacks, including six from defensive end Chris Smith. We'll see if that type of pressure affects Murphy or if he continues to play with poise and control.

2) Is Arkansas any good?

It's hard to tell at this point. The Razorbacks imploded last year after the preseason firing of coach Bobby Petrino, plummeting from the top 10 in the preseason to 4-8 with several blowout losses under one-year lame duck John L. Smith. The truth usually lies somewhere in between those two extremes, but Arkansas blew a chance to make a statement when it allowed Rutgers to rally from a 24-7 second-half deficit to win 28-24 in week 4. The Hogs hung with Texas A&M last week, losing 45-33, but that may have been as much a function of the Aggies' terrible defense as Arkansas' toughness. As do all of coach Brett Bielma's teams, Arkansas will line up and try to run on Florida behind freshman Alex Collins (597 yards, 6.0 average) and sophomore Jonathan Williams (471 yards, 6.5 average). The Gators didn't miss stud defensive tackle Dominique Easley against Kentucky. We'll find out if that was an aberration or a trend.

3) How good is Collins?

Well, he leads the nation in rushing, showing he made a smart choice as a five-start recruit out of South Plantation. No coach is more running back-friendly than Bielma, so Collins became the first freshman in SEC history to begin his career with three consecutive 100-yard games. That's incredible-not that he did it, but that no one ever had. Rutgers, which has a top-10 run defense, is the only team that has kept him below 100 yards (16 carries, 63 yards). He has power and the innate ability to turn short gains into long runs.

4) Can the Razorbacks throw at all?

Since Florida ranks No. 1 nationally in run defense (53.5 yards), it's hard to imagine Arkansas beating the Gators by relying solely on its ground game. Sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen was shaky against Texas A&M after returning from an injured throwing shoulder that forced him to miss the Rutgers game, tossing three interceptions to go along with his three TDs and completing only 17 of his 36 passes. He did not have to throw much in the Razorbacks' first three wins, so he'll have to really come up big at the Swamp for the Hogs to have a shot. His favorite targets are senior Javontee Herndon (14 catches, 236 yards) and true freshman tight end Hunter Henry (12 catches, 234 yards), neither of whom scares Florida's secondary.

5) What is the formula for an Arkansas upset?

Defensive line dominance, big plays from the running backs and no turnovers in the passing game. Arkansas' veteran front four is pretty good. Smith is a tremendous pass rusher, and tackle Robert Thomas, another senior, excels against the run. His 23 stops are a very high number for an interior lineman after five games. End Trey Flowers has been a presence in the backfield, too, and nose guard Byran Jones (6-2, 318) holds his own. These guys have to stuff Florida's running game, force Murphy to beat them with his arm and rattle him with pressure. That's easier said than done, but it's the only way. Despite their two-game losing streak, the Razorbacks will come in with a little confidence. They were down by five to Texas A&M in the fourth quarter last week, so they have been in every game.

FIVE TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Here's a list of five Razorbacks players Gator fans will want to keep an eye on
1) Alex Collins, a 5-foot-11, 206-pound freshman running back
Smith Says: Despite his early success, Collins did not accomplish much against Rutgers, the only run defense the Hogs have faced that compares to Florida's. Will he be nervous back in his home state?
2) Jonathan Williams, a 6-foot-0, 222-pound sophomore running back
Smith Says: Williams has not chafed at the attention Collins has drawn even though he is averaging more yards per carry than the heralded freshman. He has three 100-yard games himself.
3) Chris Smith, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior defensive end
Smith Says: You're pretty good when you are selected preseason first-team All-SEC by the coaches and your team is coming off a dreadful 4-8 year when the defense stank. The Gators figure to double-team Smith early and often.
4) Trey Flowers, 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior defensive end
Smith Says: Helped by the attention Smith receives, Flowers is having a nice year too, with five tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.
5) Zach Hocker, a 6-foot-0, 191-pound senior placekicker
Smith Says: The last time Arkansas played in Gainesville, it missed two field goals, including a 38-yarder that would have put it ahead by 3 in the last four minutes of what turned into a 3-point loss. That won't happen this time. Hocker is 7 for 7 with a 53-yarder and two more from more than 40 yards.

1) Arkansas has lost all eight meetings with Florida since it joined the SEC, and only two of them were close-the 2009 meeting with the top-ranked Gators trailed by seven at the half and by seven in the fourth quarter before pulling it out, and the 2003 meeting in Fayetteville when UF led 33-7 with 8:00 left but held on 33-28 only after a personal foul penalty kept Arkansas from getting the ball back one more time.
2) Arkansas is the only team in the nation with four consecutive games against preseason top 10 teams. The Razorbacks are on week 2 of that gauntlet after playing host to Texas A&M. They get South Carolina at home next week and then travel to Alabama the following week. Ouch.
3) Here's the stupid stat of the year award: The Arkansas media notes point out the Razorbacks are 5-0 all-time against teams ranked No. 18. The victims were South Carolina in 2010, LSU in 2002, TCU in 1961, TCU in 1957 and Texas A&M in 1951. The parallels between that '51 A&M game and the one coming up against the No. 18 Gators are striking. Or not.
4) When Bielema hired Randy Shannon as an assistant, it helped Arkansas more than you'll ever know. Shannon, the former Miami head coach, works with the linebackers.
5) Arkansas has five players from Florida-Collins, Herndon from Jacksonville, freshman safety De'Andre Coley from Miami, freshman offensive tackle Denver Kirkland from Miami and freshman defensive tackle Ke'Tyrus Marks from West Palm Beach. Florida natives have accounted for 51 percent of Arkansas' rushing yards, 39 percent of touchdowns, 37 percent of all-purpose yards, 29 percent of scoring, 29 percent of total offense and 28 percent of receiving yards.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!