There’s a nice Arkansas media roundtable discussion of the Razorbacks and the upcoming Bama game on ArkansasSports360.com. This discussion provides a good insight into the Arkansas state-of-mind heading into this week’s game. I’ve listed some excerpts of the conversation below, along with some comments.
Question: What did you take away from the Arkansas-Troy game?
Bruce James: …Arkansas still didn’t have the concentration to stay with it for four quarters, they are still a poor tackling team and their defensive line is very much suspect in my opinion.
Brent Birch, Flex360, staff baseball columnist: …Up 31-7 after complete blowouts the previous two weeks and Alabama on the horizon, they hit cruise control. Not a huge deal unless they lay an egg in Tuscaloosa.
Tide Bits: I agree that it’s not a big deal. It’s the final pre-season tune up – against Troy – before playing Bama. It doesn’t take much for the mind to shift focus quickly to the next game.
Question: We know Alabama will run the football and try to set up its play-action passing game with the run? Is Arkansas’ defense strong enough to slow down Alabama and, in particular, Trent Richardson? Is Arkansas’ defense as good as you thought it was?
Bruce: No, the defense is not as good as advertised. I didn’t know before Troy and I still don’t know, and won’t know what they’re capable of until they play Alabama. From a defensive line point of view, though, it’s very troubling, especially playing very vanilla and it’s just you and that man in front of you, and they’re still not making the plays.
Birch: The most disappointing part of the 2012 Razorback team thus far is the defensive line. They had a ton of hype coming into the season. Pass rush is non-existent without kamikaze blitzing, and that puts a lot of pressure on the secondary. Granted, a couple of the offenses they have faced are 3-5-step-drop-and-unload type operations. They better man up this weekend or Trent Richardson will go for 200 yards and the Hogs vaunted offense won’t get on the field.
Tide Bits: These comments don’t show a lot of confidence in the Arkansas defense and seem contrary to the quotes below…
Question: Man, turnovers. Arkansas makes them. Arkansas doesn’t force them, at least against the easiest portion of the schedule. That seems to be a problem for me, and it will be a problem for Arkansas if they don’t win the turnover battle Saturday. It only made the Troy game a 10-point game instead of a 24-point game.
TJ: Arkansas’ defense can stop Alabama, but only if they stay fresh because the offense is sustaining drives. Arkansas’ defense is about where I thought it would be before the season started. Good, not great.
Bahn: Slowing Richardson will be tough, but this defense was put together with that in mind. Well, not specifically Richardson, but the powerful running that Alabama and LSU attack teams with. We will know much more about the defense after this week.
Tide Bits: So the defense was built to stop LSU and Bama. That’s an interesting plan, especially with major concerns about the defensive line.
Question: After some bobbled snaps and the interception-for-TD last week, do you worry about Tyler Wilson’s ability to lead this team in a game of this magnitude? Do you believe Arkansas can move the football against ‘Bama and put enough points on the board?
Birch: …Alabama is going to throw a lot of different looks and schemes to confuse him, so the short passing game will be paramount this weekend. Bama gave Ryan Mallett fits because of his desire to hit the home run downfield. Can’t afford that kind of time against Saban’s schemes, so Wilson needs to be effective underneath to hit gaps in the coverage. Saban is a master at disguising his coverages, so fans have to hope Wilson is awake during film study this week. If the offensive line can protect Wilson and he executes Coach Petrino’s game plan, Arkansas can rack up big numbers on Saturday.
TJ: I don’t worry about Wilson. He’s a good leader and his teammates respect him. I think this is a team that will rise to the occasion of big games, which is essentially the remainder of their schedule. The offense can move the ball on anyone. It is as close to an NFL offense as you will see in college football. Arkansas is built the way the Saints, Packers and Patriots are built. All Super Bowl contenders. [Emphasis added.]
Bahn: …As far as Wilson goes, it’s probably fair to assume last year’s game at Auburn is what he’s capable of until he shows us otherwise. [Emphasis added.]
Tide Bits: It’s safe to say that the Arkansas media is quite confident in Petrino’s offense. I agree that Petrino has a brilliant mind, but TJ might want to check down on this line of thinking. The Razorbacks have a first year starter with a less than stellar TD-to-interceptions ratio, a freshmen offensive tackle and they lost their best running back. They’re good, but I don’t know about NFL good.
Question: But he also threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter of that game.
Can we move the ball? Yes, and we will move the football. I would be very surprised if we don’t have 300-plus yards passing the football. But will we score touchdowns? Will we move it in the red zone and score or kick field goals? I believe Arkansas’ offense is as good against any one’s in the country. [Emphasis added.]
Question: Is this the biggest game in Bobby Petrino’s career at Arkansas in terms of continuing to build his program?
TJ: Yes. And Alabama will continue to be the biggest game of Bobby Petrino’s career every season until he and the Razorbacks beat them. Arkansas can’t lose this game, period.