Throw the Auburn game out the window. Pretend it didn’t happen.
Not only is that the wish of everyone associated, even tangentially, to the Arkansas football team, but it’s what we’re doing today. The game was the ultimate outlier. Things that disastrous are once in a generation, typically. They’re so abnormal they skew otherwise meaningful statistics so badly that one can’t even make an accurate prediction about what may be to come.
And that’s the “in” thing right now, analytics. Data. Unless you’re talking politics, in which case, well, they may need to readjust. But quantifiable data in sports has been in vogue for a while now. And while this piece isn’t as advanced as most, nor as advanced as I’d like (something I’ll work on before next football season), it does look at more than just the box score.
Accordingly, while it may not be fair to toss the Auburn game out of the mix, I’m going to, anyway.
What was once the best and most effective characteristic of the Arkansas offense has gone awry. Quarterback Austin Allen, in games against nonconference foes, glimmered on play-action passes. According to unofficial data that I have logged since the start of the season, Allen had a completion percentage above 80 on such plays, and 4 of his 10 touchdowns came after fakes to a runner. The plays were opening the running game for an average of 216 yards per game.
Since, though — and this removing the mess against the Tigers — Allen is just 21 for 41 with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Against Florida last week, the Gators forced him incomplete on his first 5 attempts off play-action, including one pick, before he completed his last five, including one score.
Against Ole Miss, Allen had just 5 completions off play-action, though they were for 103 yards. Alabama: 6 for 14, no touchdowns, no interceptions.
That isn’t to blame Allen. Not at all. He is, as I’ve written before, the best quarterback in the SEC, for my money, especially now that Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly is out for the season. A lot of it seems to be because play-action passes tend to develop more slowly. Slower-developing plays put quarterbacks in more danger, and Arkansas’ offensive line has allowed 22 sacks this year, second most in the SEC. Fifteen of those sacks have come during league play.
It is, to me, the thing to watch Saturday against LSU when Arkansas is on offense. If Allen can get going with play-action, the Razorbacks have a good shot at pulling the upset. If not, or if Arkansas is unable to run as many as it would like, it might be a long, hard day for Allen.