We exchanged questions and answers with SB Nation Arkansas writers Arkansas Expats (which I want to read Celebrity Jeopardy style as Ar Kansan Sex Pats). We did not ask which slimmed down Arkansas politician do they like the best; Bill Clinton or Mike Huckabee. On to the questions;
1. Arkansas held Auburn to 23 points and only 133 yards passing. Have they figured out something on defense or was the game last week a fluke?
That's a very good question, and unfortunately nobody quite knows for sure. What we do know is that the defense was absolutely horrific against Georgia, very bad against Alabama, decent against Texas A&M (which came into the game with a top-ranked offense) and pretty good against Auburn (except in the 3rd quarter, when they resorted to their early season form).
So, the trends are at least moving in the right direction and I do feel like the defense is better now than it was at the beginning of the year. But, we still give up way too many big plays and the ceiling for this defense isn't all that high...at best it will be a competent "bend, but don't break" unit rather than one that actually wins games. So, no one will be confusing us with the 1985 Chicago Bears (or 2009 Florida Gators) any time soon.
2. Arkansas is top-15 nationally in scoring and total offense. Was this expected in year two of Petrino?
Pretty much...the anticipation of a high-powered offense, particularly a passing one, is what made Hog fans so excited when Petrino originally came on board and what's given us the strength to shake off approximately 8 billion "Petrino is going to take a plane to [insert team name here] at halftime" jokes.
Last year was very much a transitional period, but this year with some better talent at the skill positions and Ryan Mallett coming in at QB fans had pretty high expectations for the offense. So far those expectations have been met and then some...with the ominous exception of the running game, which has been mostly shaky.
3. Five players are in double digits for catches and six in triple digits for yards. Does Mallett have a go to guy, or is it whoever is open?
We do have the benefit of a really deep and talented receiving corps (which is good because they keep getting hurt). Mallett hasn't singled out one person as a go to guy, but does seem to favor a trio of sophomores - Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs - all of whom have made multiple big plays and have pretty gaudy stats.
The good news for you and bad news for us is that, out of that trio, only one is at full strength. Wright had a minor concussion against Auburn and will probably play at Florida, but he's still being tested. And Adams had what was termed as a "mild stroke" last week, which is obviously a scary thing. Word is that he's doing better, but no one knows when he'll be back on the field (if at all)...definitely not against Florida.
4. Arkansas leans on their passing game more than any other SEC team. If Florida's secondary can lock up Mallett, what chance do the Razorbacks have to run the ball?
As I noted earlier, the running game has struggled a bit this year. We actually did really well on the ground against Auburn's porous D, but getting anything going against the Gators will obviously be incredibly tough.
The good news for the Hogs is that we have a very good running back - Michael Smith, who was 2nd in the SEC in rushing yards last year. The bad news is that he's banged up after suffering a hamstring injury against Auburn and has only been practicing in limited capacity. Without him playing (and playing well) our already small chance of a victory drops down very close to zero.
To answer your question, I'm sure the Florida defense will go after Mallett and have some success - particularly your D line versus our O line. So, to negate that and open up the passing game in general we'll need to get the running game going. It's possible - Bobby Petrino is a smart guy and I'm sure he's spent a lot of time thinking about this - but I'm not betting my mortgage on it.
5. Mallett isn't 2006 Brandon Cox or 2008 Jevon Snead, right?
Ha. Well, when all is said and done I think Mallett will actually wind up a much better QB than either of those guys - both because of his freakish arm and the fact that he's playing in an offense perfectly geared towards his talents. But, since I suspect you're mainly concerned with avoiding an untimely upset like the kind those two dished out, I'll say that Tim Tebow probably won't feel the need to make any frame worthy emotional promises after the game.
I do think Arkansas has a better offense than any of the teams you've faced so far this year (hopefully we'll find the end zone more than, say, LSU) but I'm also sure your defense is quite capable of locking it down enough for Tebow and company to do their thing against our less-than-nasty D. In the end, I think the Hogs will perform better than they did against Alabama but, unless Florida completely falls asleep out there I think you guys will do just fine in avoiding a Cox/Snead scenario.