FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas hosts No. 10 Florida on Saturday afternoon at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. This will be the Hogs’ fourth consecutive contest against a ranked team.
Here are 5 key things for Razorbacks fans to watch in the game:
5. November Hogs
I hope everyone had a happy Halloween, but most Arkansas fans probably prefer to get past the spooky holiday. After all, November recently has been kind to the Hogs.
Arkansas is 6-2 in November during the last two seasons. Will that trend continue in 2016?
Arkansas’ first two November games this season — Florida and LSU — will be tough but at home. The final two regular-season games are on the road, at Mississippi State and Missouri. Arkansas probably will be favored in those contests.
4. Austin Allen
Allen is coming off a minor injury to his right knee, so it will be interesting to see how he looks on Saturday. Allen has returned to practice and will be available for the Florida game, but how much will he be limited?
That will be especially important because of how much Allen has needed to scramble this season. Facing another tough defensive front, will his knee problem make him a sitting duck?
When he’s had time to make plays — and even many times when he hasn’t — Allen has been one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks. Florida’s defense ranks second in scoring and total defense. The Gators have picked off 10 passes this season.
Arkansas is coming off its worst performance of the Bret Bielema era. The Hogs’ embarrassing 56-3 loss at Auburn was demoralizing.
How will the team respond? How will the Razorbacks start in the first quarter? If things get off to a slow start Saturday and the Gators jump to a big lead, it might be a sign that the bottom is falling out for Arkansas.
If, however, the Hogs start fast Saturday and win — or even lose a fairly close contest — that would be a sign that Bielema and his staff used the bye week wisely and have gotten their players past the Auburn embarrassment.
2. Run defense
Auburn rushed for a staggering 543 yards in the above-mentioned shellacking. That number represents the most rushing yards allowed by an Arkansas defense.
Arkansas is allowing 221.75 rushing yards per game this season, which ranks 110th in the country. There are fundamental problems with the Razorbacks defense that won’t be solved this late in the season, especially with starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw out for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately for the Hogs — this week, at least — they are playing against a much less potent offense in Florida. The Gators rank 67th in the country in rushing offense.
1. Offensive line
The Arkansas offensive line has been one of the biggest problems all season. You’ve seen that sentence multiple times during the last few months, and the unit remains an issue.
It’s the No. 1 thing to watch this week for a few reasons. First, Florida is another team with a strong defensive front that could give the Hogs fits. The Gators rank ninth in the country in run defense and average 3 sacks per game.
Second, we aren’t sure what Arkansas’ starting lineup is going to look like. Right tackle Brian Wallace isn’t practicing after his injury in the Auburn game, so former starter Colton Jackson could find himself back in the lineup.
Jackson, you’ll recall, was benched after three games in favor of Wallace.
Will Bielema and offensive line coach Kurt Anderson make non-injury changes as well? Left guard Hjalte Froholdt and right guard Jake Raulerson have struggled throughout the season. Bielema hinted during the bye week that he might make changes to the starting unit.
Bielema said Raulerson has dealt with an injury during the last several weeks. Also, the updated depth chart released Monday listed the usual starting five up front.