Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen will start in the team's upcoming SEC clash with the AP No. 10 Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday in Fayetteville.
Allen's return from a bruised right throwing shoulder gives the Razorbacks more hope to notch a monumental victory, but it will be as much about Allen capitalizing on big-play opportunities as it will be about protecting the ball.
The Razorbacks, who are 14.5-point underdogs according to TopBet, have to keep the ball away from reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Aggies' high-powered offense.
In order to accomplish that, it will require establishing a solid running game, which means Allen has to keep the Texas A&M defense honest when Arkansas goes aerial.
Head coach Bret Bielema tweeted the news that Allen would return under center on Friday:
There was some optimism that Allen could have returned last week for the Rutgers game, but he didn't hit the gridiron, and the Razorbacks fell to the Scarlet Knights 28-24 after blowing a 17-point lead.
Backup signal-caller AJ Derby averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt, as opposed to the 8.82 average Allen posted before exiting the team's third game of the season against Southern Miss.
Granted, Rutgers was the toughest defense Arkansas had faced all year, but Allen's reinsertion as the starter gives the Razorbacks offense more explosiveness.
The redshirt sophomore seems eager to get back out on the field in his team's Southeastern Conference opener:
Allen is 6'3" and 210 pounds with a tall presence in the pocket, a quick release and adequate mobility. He will be able to stretch the field more effectively.
The duo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams has to get back on track for Arkansas to have success against a Top 10 team. Those backs combined for only 3.6 yards per carry in the Rutgers game, but the Razorbacks are still 17th in the country in averaging 246 yards per game on the ground.
It helps that Allen will have the home crowd behind him, and that the Aggies defense ranks 90th in points allowed (30.3 per game) and is 106th against the run, per NCAA.com.
All of these factors work in Allen's favor, but it's up to him to take advantage of what will likely be loaded boxes and find his playmakers.
And with his skill set, Allen can.
Seasoned senior Javontee Herndon is the go-to target, but sophomore Keon Hatcher had his best showing to date with four catches for 45 yards in facing Rutgers. An X-factor to watch for is freshman tight end Hunter Henry, who caught the Razorbacks' only receiving touchdown against the Scarlet Knights.
All the pieces are in place for Allen to thrive in this contest. Allen has the arm to stretch the Aggies secondary and gives Arkansas a far better chance to pull the upset.
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