Arkansas football: How can the Hogs bounce back against Tennessee?
Arkansas was brought down to earth this past weekend.
The Razorbacks had been riding the high of two early victories, but they fell short on the road against rival Texas A&M. The defense that had forced 13 turnovers coming into the game failed to come away with a single one Saturday. Kellen Mond and the Aggies essentially did whatever they wanted in a game that was much more lopsided than the 42-31 final score indicated.
It was a small step backward in a season that has otherwise been nothing but forward progress.
Arkansas now turn their attention to a home game against Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday. The season still has plenty of winnable matchups, and this figures to be one of them. The Volunteers have been trending down for a while, and they suffered their third consecutive loss on Oct. 24, 48-17 to Alabama.
What will the Hogs need to do to get back on the winning track?
For starters, the defense has to be a lot better. It lost one of its leaders after Jalen Catalon was ejected in the second quarter against A&M because of a targeting call. The safety will be back this week, and the Razorbacks will hope to return to their habit of wreaking havoc with turnovers.
Jarrett Guarantano has seen a lot of SEC football, so the veteran might not be as mistake-prone as some of the quarterbacks Arkansas has faced. He has only 3 interceptions on the season. However, he also hasn’t found the end zone much, with only 6 touchdowns.
Tennessee has played two tough defenses in Alabama and Georgia, but the Volunteers have been pretty underwhelming offensively. On paper, this definitely looks like a much better matchup for the Hogs defense.
It wasn’t all bad for Arkansas against the Aggies, though.
The Razorbacks’ success in the running game is one trend they hope carries over. They entered the game ranked 12th in the SEC in rushing yards, but they ran for a season-high 222 against A&M. Rakeem Boyd had his first 100-yard game of the season, but he didn’t do it alone. Feleipe Franks actually made his impact known, rushing for a career-high 91 yards on 16 carries. The stat line was even more impressive considering Franks lost yardage on 4 sacks.
Franks has seen his carries spike in the past three weeks, as he is averaging 15 per game in that span. If he is able to get things going on the ground in this one, it only makes Arkansas more dangerous as Boyd continues to get closer to his form from last season.
Finally, Arkansas needs to make an effort to feed Treylon Burks.
That hasn’t been an issue for the Hogs thus far, as Burks ranks ninth in the SEC in receptions despite missing one game and most of another. He has 100 yards or more receiving in all three of the full games he has played this year.
How good has @TreylonBurks been lately?
He's got the second-highest PFF grade among SEC WRs over the last three weeks.
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) November 2, 2020
Burks has a case as one of the most improved players in the conference and is emerging as a star during his sophomore season. He likely hasn’t reached his ceiling in offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ scheme, either. If Arkansas gets back in the win column, expect Burks to be a big reason why.
Ultimately, the Razorbacks shouldn’t feel too down after last week’s loss.
A&M is a top-10 team that many think has a shot to make the College Football Playoff. Arkansas hadn’t won an SEC game since 2017 entering the year. They’re on the upswing, but they’re not quite at that level yet. Give it time.
In the meantime, there is still plenty to look forward to this year, including the game this week.