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Rutgers vs. Arkansas Offers Scarlet Knights Biggest Challenge of the Season

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 13:  Quarterback Gary Nova #15 of  Rutgers Scarlet Knights looks to pass against the South Florida Bulls  at Raymond James Stadium  September 13, 2012  in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Mark BatorAnalyst IISeptember 18, 2012

“We’ve got a big game against Rutgers next week. I am going to do everything in my power to be a part of it and be the starting quarterback when we run out onto the field. And most importantly, get a win.”—injured Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, as reported by John Taylor of NBC Sports on CollegeFootballTalk.NBCsports.com.

The 3-0 Scarlet Knights face what is arguably their greatest challenge of the season when they travel to Arkansas to face a Razorbacks team that has struggled so far this season.

After rolling over Jacksonville State 49-24 in its season opener, Arkansas was upset by the ULM Warhawks in overtime, 34-31. But when Arkansas dropped last week's conference game to Alabama 52-0, the result reportedly prompted sidelined quarterback Tyler Wilson to criticize his teammates.

"Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there?" the injured Wilson asked rhetorically about his teammates [as reported by John Taylor of NBC Sports on CollegeFootballTalk.NBCsports.com]. "Absolutely." Wilson's playing status for the Rutgers game remains questionable due to the head injury that took him out of the ULM game in Week 2 and caused him to miss last week's game against the Crimson Tide.

Despite the early-season troubles, first-year coach John L. Smith is trying to keep his Arkansas team together as they prepare for Rutgers.

''I have total confidence in these guys and that the seniors are going to pull us together and the rest of the team is going to pull together,'' Smith said [as quoted by Kurt Voigt on Sports.Yahoo.com]. ''I don't think they're going to splinter and everybody start pointing fingers and going their own way."

The Razorbacks will need to function as a cohesive unit as they will face a Scarlet Knights team that currently ranks fifth in the nation in points against, ninth in rushing defense and 12th in total defense. If Tyler Wilson cannot go at QB, Brandon Allen (20-for-45 for 178 yards) will get the start.

“I’m going to do the best I can to keep everybody together and display a much better product out there on the field," Wilson said of his Arkansas teammates [as reported by Nate Allen on BaxterBulletin.com].

But will he be healthy enough to get on the field?

Without question, the Razorbacks are a much better team with their fifth-year senior quarterback under center, but in this age of heightened awareness regarding concussions and brain injuries, Arkansas is not likely to rush Wilson back onto the field. This week, Wilson is undergoing post-concussive testing to see if he can get clearance to play.

“The results were much better than the previous time,” Wilson said [as reported by Nate Allen on BaxterBulletin.com], "almost real similar to baseline. So that, for me, is very, very positive in my probability for this week.”

"I would imagine that with him on the field, they will be a completely different team," said Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood speaking about Tyler Wilson [per Keith Sargeant's article in Scarlet Scuttlebutt on MyCentralJersey.com]. He’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the country, a great challenge for our defense to defend him, and the weapons that they have.”

Whether it is Wilson or Allen throwing the passes for the Razorbacks offense, the Arkansas QB will be looking to connect with receivers Chris Gregg (17 receptions) and Cobi Hamilton (10 receptions). On the ground, Knile Davis is the workhorse at running back with 54 carries and 191 yards through three games.

“The thing about athletics and football is that you get to go this week and try and get rid of that bitter taste like we’ve said before,” said John L. Smith in anticipation of this week's confrontation with Rutgers [per Arkansas' Athletic Media Relations on ArkansasRazorbacks.com].

But Kyle Flood isn't taking Arkansas (1-2) for granted, despite its uneven play so far this season. Rutgers has been preparing with the expectation that Tyler Wilson will be the starter this week.

“I think they are just a dangerous team in general regardless of what their record is," Flood concluded about his team's Week 4 opponent [reported by Keith Sargeant's in Scarlet Scuttlebutt on MyCentralJersey.com]. "They are as physically talented a group as any group we’ll play all year.”

Game Time: 7:02pm (EDT), 6:02 local time (CDT), September 22; television broadcast on ESPNU.

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