FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas – Half-full or half-empty. Red pill or blue pill. The choices are yours.
Of course, the truth often lies somewhere in the middle. Things are rarely as bad as they seem nor as good as people will tell you. This is especially true with Arkansas this year.
Half-empty: They’re 4-2, but very well could be 2-4.
Half-full: They’re 0-2 in the SEC, but the two losses came to teams a combined 12-0.
It’s going to be hard to reconcile the two extremes when it comes to what’s next. Ultimately things either go off-track or stay the course. A bowl season comes or it doesn’t. Arkansas’ season is half finished, but, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Razorbacks are not favored to win any of their last six contents.
Somewhere things went nutty. Alabama took advantage of Arkansas’ biggest weaknesses Saturday and exploited them for the rest of the league to see. And unfortunately for the Razorbacks, it doesn’t appear the largest of those vulnerabilities is going to get much better.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw will be out 4-6 weeks with a foot injury. It’d be bad enough if that was it, but the truth is Arkansas can ill-afford worse play at linebacker. Linebackers and safeties are, in theory, supposed to provide the spine of the defense. They stop things down the middle, especially passes.
But it was right smack in the middle where Arkansas has been the worst. Safeties biting on play-action against Alabama saw quarterback Jalen Hurts go 4 of 5 for 136 yards as the Crimson Tide built a 42-17 lead in the second half.
Making matters worse, Hurts found the soft spot in the belly of the defense, even on standard passes. In all, he was 5 of 6 for 140 yards when targeting his receivers in the middle as Alabama built its big lead.
This came against Greenlaw and Brooks Ellis, a four-year starter, and the safety trio of De’Andre Coley, Josh Liddell and Santos Ramirez. Now Greenlaw is out, replaced, probably, by freshman De’Jon Harris, who has similar upside to what Greenlaw brought to the table as a freshman last year. But Greenlaw also drew the coaches’ ire several times. Freshmen make mistakes.
The question is whether Arkansas can have any more errors and expect to survive.