Robbie Neiswanger, while also joining us for this week’s Pick 6, is urging the Arkansas athletic department to move Saturday’s game to the Caribbean island of Aruba – and out of chilly northwest Arkansas (where 20-degree temps and snow await).
Aruba, the new site of LSU-Arkansas (not really).
We’re hoping his plight his fruitful, but we are not confident. We are confident in his knowledge of the Hogs, and he shares that with us in this Q&A.
You can follow Robbie on Twitter at @NWARobbie and read his work here.
1. Arkansas has played a few teams down to the wire – Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi State – but the Hogs’ 17-game SEC losing streak continued. What’s the feeling up in Fayetteville about where the program is and where it’s headed in Year 2 under Brett Bielema?
The improvement in Year 2 is really clear. The Razorbacks have more talent, experience and depth. They’re much more physical on both sides of the ball. It’s easy to see what Bielema is trying to build.
They just haven’t experienced a breakthrough in SEC play. That’s why there’s plenty of frustration for everyone involved – players, coaches and fans. Arkansas knows it’s making progress, but it’s about time to see the rewards. No one around the state wants to see the skid extend to 2015.
2. Temperature at kickoff is expected to be around 30 degrees with possible snow. What’s Arkansas doing to prepare for playing in such conditions?
The Razorbacks are getting out in the cold. Bielema said Monday his team would “embrace the chill” and the Hogs have done so.
Arkansas has an indoor practice facility, but worked in the stadium while temperatures were in the 30s on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bielema’s belief is that the week-long acclimation will give his team an advantage on Saturday night. So Arkansas is trying to make the most of it.
3. Arkansas is 12th nationally, averaging 5.7 yards a rush. Why are they so good at running the football?
Alex Collins is one of a two-part Arkansas rushing attack that averages 5.7 yards a carry. (AP)
To be honest, Arkansas has done a good job of mauling smaller defenses. The majority of their rushing production came against Nicholls State, Texas Tech, Northern Illinois and UAB.
The Razorbacks have only cracked 200 yards in SEC play once – and it came more than a month ago against Texas A&M. They’ve had other issues, too, getting stuffed in key short-yardage situations against the Aggies, Alabama and Mississippi State.
Statistically, Arkansas has been a solid rushing team. The Razorbacks have two talented backs and a big offensive line. But they know there’s a lot of room for improvement and get their next chance Saturday.
4. The Hogs need to win two of their last three games to reach bowl eligibility. Do you think this happens and how will the fan base take another bowl-less year if it doesn’t happen?
I’m not comfortable saying a team that hasn’t won an SEC game in more than two years can win two in three weeks. I just don’t know. It feels like Arkansas is going to break through and snap the skid before the season ends, but there’s no Vanderbilt on this schedule.
But I do believe Arkansas will be within reach during each of its final three games against LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri. This team just has to figure out how to make plays in the fourth quarter to win one. Then another.
There will be disappointment if there’s no bowl, but I think the biggest thing is finding a way to end this streak. Finishing 5-7 overall, 1-7 in the SEC doesn’t look great, but it’s so much better than dragging a 20-game losing streak through the offseason.
5. How far has Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen come since the start of last season?
QB Brandon Allen is a much different player than the one LSU saw last season. (AP)
Allen was a first-year starter who had a shoulder injury that limited his ability to practice over the final eight weeks of the season in 2013. Not exactly a recipe for success.
He has been healthy this year, is much more comfortable and it shows. Allen’s passing numbers are up and the mistakes are down. He has command of the offense and has earned the trust of his teammates.
It’s no surprise Arkansas is better because of it. That doesn’t mean Allen has become an elite quarterback. He’s 0-14 as a starter in SEC games after all. He has thrown interceptions at critical points in two games (Alabama and Mississippi State) and has looked erratic at other times. But there’s no doubt he’s better than the quarterback LSU saw last season.
6. Where can LSU exploit Arkansas’ defense?
That’s much more difficult to answer this year because Arkansas has tightened up under first-year coordinator Robb Smith. It’s not as easy to run on the Hogs, who have given up 200 or more rushing yards only twice (Auburn and Georgia).
There has been improvement on the back end, too, with the secondary playing with much more confidence. But Arkansas still isn’t rock-solid back there. Miscommunication left a receiver open for a 69-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter at Mississippi State. Texas A&M hit the Hogs for two big plays in the fourth quarter as well.
So LSU — which stung Arkansas with a big pass play last season — could have opportunities downfield if it can take advantage of them Saturday.