(Again credit goes to the internet legend known as “Thujone” on Shaggy Bevo)
Kentucky and Arkansas have had very similar seasons thus far, but have arrived to that similarity in very different ways. While Kentucky was expected by many to struggle this season, Arkansas was expected to be among the nation’s elite despite losing head coach, Bobby Petrino (see above picture). Expectations, however, didn’t meet with reality as Arkansas’ season can only be described scientifically as an implosion. Their season as a whole can be described in any negative way you so choose, but they did get back on the winning track last week on the road against another struggling team, Auburn. Despite this, the Razorbacks have many weapons on both sides of the ball that will give Kentucky’s inexperienced and injured bunch all they can handle come Saturday night in Fayetteville, Arkansas. First and foremost, Joker Phillips’ squad will have to prepare for many individual offensive stars.
The Razorback offense has struggled to say the least without Bobby Petrino to organize the bunch. So far, John L. Smith’s Razorbacks have only accumulated 140 points which ranks them 77th nationally behind Boston College and Virginia. Through six games last season Arkansas amassed 235 points (a 95 point difference). Despite the vast difference Arkansas returned many of the pieces that made them so efficient the previous year, mainly Tyler Wilson. The fifth year senior is averaging an outstanding 9.1 yards per passing attempt, which hypothetically speaking, if he were a team would place him 11th nationally tied with Alabama. Part of the reason for Wilson’s successes is the First-team all-SEC Wide Receiver, Cobi Hamilton. His numbers compare to just about any elite wide-out in the nation. In six games Hamilton has already acquired 663 yards and 4 touchdown catches. Perhaps you remember his performance against Rutgers where he posted 3 of his 4 touchdowns while setting the SEC single game receiving record of 303 yards. These two players alone are enough to give Rick Minter and company nightmares as the ‘Cats have struggled with protecting the secondary all season, ranking 71st in passing efficiency at 7.1 yards allowed per pass.
John L. Smith’s defense has, for lack of a better term, been a total and complete meltdown. While last year’s defensive unit wasn’t anything to write home about, they had only allowed 128 points through six games. Compare that to this season and the already shaky defense from last year has morphed into a monster that has allowed 210 points. This is primarily due to in inefficient pass defense that has allowed 8.4 yards per pass (104th nationally) and has only acquired 7 turnovers all season. While it wasn’t all negative before on defense with all-SEC Second Team Linebacker, Alonzo Highsmith, Arkansas just had the misfortune of losing him for the year to a foot injury. Highsmith had 47 tackles along with 2 sacks, so a Kentucky passing attack which is also struggling with injuries looks to have a glimmer of hope against Arkansas after all. That’ll be easier said than done though, as Jalen Whitlow has struggled at times to move the ball down field through the air, completing only 46% of his passes while averaging 3.98 yards per pass.
Both Wildcats and Razorbacks would appear to be evenly matched teams given their near identical records and scoring margins, but Vegas says otherwise. The home Razorbacks find themselves to be 17 point favorites for Saturday’s 7:00 p.m. match-up, and for good reason. While Tyler Wilson may headline the offense, Arkansas’ feature Running Back, Knile Davis, is also looking to break out of his season long lull and show why he was voted first team all-SEC by the leagues respective coaches. Pair this two headed attack against a defense that has had much trouble stopping anything and you have a recipe for a 17-point underdog. Can Joker Phillips get win number two by slowing an Arkansas offense that will wake sooner rather than later? Difficult to say for sure, but given the Wildcats’ struggles on defense John L. Smith’s squad may finally rise and realize the sum of their potential.