Arkansas at Rutgers
Saturday, 3:30pm, ESPN
Line: Rutgers, -2.5
Strange intersectional pairing in this game, as Arkansas heads to the Northeast and faces the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. This is only the second matchup between these two teams, as Rutgers won last year's matchup in Fayetteville.
But that was a different Hogs team, as Bret Bielema has brought a plodding, ground oriented attack to Arkansas. Rutgers, by beating an SEC team, could make a huge statement that the American is not just Louisville and a bunch of nobodies-although Rutgers will leave for the Big Ten after this season.
For Arkansas to win: Throw the ball. It's going against Bret Bielema's inherent instincts, and going against what has worked for the Razorbacks through three games this season. But Arkansas is going to have to put the ball up in order to win. Rutgers has actually managed to stop the run in its three games so far this season, allowing only 1.98 yards per carry on 90 rushes this season. Rutgers knows that Arkansas wants to run the ball. Early play action passes might allow for some big plays down the field, which would eventually loosen up the Rutgers defense.
For Rutgers to win: Control the line of scrimmage. Rutgers needs to not just be strong at the point of attack on defense, but they will also need to be able to get pressure on the quarterback in obvious passing situations. Rutgers is average 3.3 sacks per game. Arkansas is only allowing two sacks per game. Rutgers will want to shut down the run, force the Razorbacks out of their comfort zone and try to come after the quarterback. If they can get Arkansas to play from behind the chains most of the day, they should easily come out on top.
Key Player(s), Arkansas: Brandon Allen or AJ Derby, quarterbacks. Allen is a game-time decision after hurting his shoulder diving for a touchdown in last week's game against Southern Mississippi. If Allen doesn't go, then the job falls to AJ Derby, who played the second half last week. Whoever finds themself under center on Saturday, though, is probably going to wind up being the key figure in the game for Arkansas. Rutgers is going to be focused on stopping the two-headed tailback of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Arkansas is going to have to throw a bit to win this game, and it will be up to Allen or Derby to win.
Key Player, Rutgers: Darius Hamilton, defensive tackle. Line play will be critical in this game, and in stopping the run you need good play from your defensive tackles. If Hamilton can help create havoc up front and disrupt the blocking schemes of Arkansas, letting linebackers Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder flow to the ball, it could be a long day for the Razorbanks on the banks of the Raritan River.
Key Stat: 3. That is the number of games that Arkansas freshman running back Alex Collins has played so far in his career. It is also the number of 100-yard games he has had in his career, making him the first freshman in SEC history to achieve that milestone.