The Daily Mississippian sports editor Dylan Rubino talks to Scottie Bordelon, the former Arkansas Traveler sports editor, who is now a sports writer for the Times Record in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
1. A lot of expectations were put on this Arkansas team at the beginning of the season. They were picked as a dark horse candidate to win the conference. What’s happened to this team that has caused a 4-4 start? Is it safe to say they have underachieved this season?
I think you could say they’ve underachieved in some areas. First year offensive coordinator Dan Enos was brought in, and the word around the program with players and coaches was there would be a smooth transition after Jim Chaney left for Pitt, but that wasn’t the case early on. Arkansas struggled finding its identity and there isn’t a more perfect example than the loss to Toledo in Little Rock. Enos had Brandon Allen throw the ball 53 times. That’s not how Arkansas will win games. The offensive line was also exposed in the first few weeks and the running game wasn’t as stout as expected. Injuries, also, have been big. Jonathan Williams and Keon Hatcher being out has hurt.
2. Quarterback Brandon Allen has elevated his play this season with 15 touchdowns to only five interceptions. What’s the difference in his game from this season to last season?
I mentioned Enos earlier, and I think he’s the biggest factor. Allen has played well since Toledo even without Hatcher, his favorite target. Players have said Enos’ new system is more complex than Chaney’s the last few years, but it’s also simpler in a way. He has involved more quick receiver screens in the offense, which Arkansas rarely did before he arrived, and simplified things for Allen, too. He knows what Allen can and can’t do and isn’t asking him to do things he isn’t comfortable with.
3. The Razorbacks rank 36th in the country in rushing offense, with junior tailback Alex Collins leading the way. Is the key to stopping Arkansas on offense taking away the running game and forcing Allen to beat you throwing the ball?
Without a doubt, that’s what has to happen. If Arkansas is forced into playing behind the chains or in third and medium-to-long situations, the defense will be in good shape. The Razorbacks will also be without Rawleigh Williams III, who played well in Jonathan Williams’ absence, for the rest of the year with an injury. We all know what to expect from Collins, but Kody Walker and an unknown back will likely see time in the backfield Saturday as well, and that favors the Rebels.
4. What matchup are you most looking forward to with Arkansas traveling to Oxford to face 18th ranked Ole Miss?
Arkansas’ offensive line vs. Ole Miss’ defensive line. Bret Bielema put his big guys on the cover of the media guide before the season started and, like I said before, they’ve come under some scrutiny at times for their lackluster play. The Rebels’ defensive front has a lot of talent, and could cause problems in the run game, so we’ll see. Arkansas’ front doesn’t give up many sacks, either. It should be a great matchup.
5. How do you see this game turning out? Score prediction?
I see Ole Miss winning by a couple of scores. Arkansas’ issues on defense has me leaning this way. The defensive line cannot get pressure on the quarterback (no player with more than 1.5 sacks), and the middle of the field has been an area teams have had success through the air and I think that, along with Laquon Treadwell, give the Razorbacks fits. I have the Rebels winning 31-17.