Arkansas Football: Are the Razorbacks Legitimate SEC West Contenders?
The college football season is just two weeks old so while it is still impossible to predict the champions of the SEC West, the future looks bright for the Arkansas Razorbacks. There are several reasons why the Razorbacks are legitimate contenders for the SEC west just based off two weeks of play. If you don’t think that the first two weeks of play in college football are important just ask Ole Miss or Virginia Tech.
Here are some things that stand out in the first two weeks of SEC play that make me believe that the Razorbacks are on course to be legitimate contenders in the SEC West.
Ryan Mallett and the Offense
Every Arkansas fan was excited about the potential of the 2010 squad when they heard that Ryan Mallett was coming back for another year to be the leader of this team. If the first two games are any indication of how he will do this year then the things are looking very good.
In the first game Mallett was flawless hitting on 21 of 24 and completing 87 percent of his passes. He racked up 300 yards and threw for two touchdowns as the Hogs routed Tennessee Tech 44-3. His only incomplete passes on the day were dropped or tipped passes and the interception was on a tipped pass.
Mallett In Game Two
In the second game, Mallett was 28 of 43 and put up 400 yards with three touchdowns and just one interception. He also added one score on the ground on the way to an easy victory over Louisiana Monroe. The offense took some time to get started as they only put up seven points in the first half and Mallett seemed to be inconsistent but in the second half he was nearly perfect and moved the offense as expected.
Mallett is living up to the hype and proving to be Heisman worthy early in the season.
One of the big question marks coming into this season was the defense of the Razorbacks. Would they be able to shut down the high octane offenses in the SEC? The offense is anchored by Mallett and extremely deep at running back, so if the defense would play up to their potential the sky would be the limit for this team.
In week one the defense smothered the offense of Tennessee Tech and allowed just three points. They only allowed 187 yards in total offense and performed admirably on third down holding tech to just 4 of 15 on third conversion attempts. The highlight of game one was a safety and the play of Anthony Leon at linebacker after being converted from a defensive back.
Defense In Game Two
In game two the defense was impressive again. They allowed just 188 total yards and just one score that came very late in the game. Third down conversions have seem to be a bright spot for this defense as they were exceptional again allowing three conversions in 14 attempts. They added three sacks, an interception, and a fumble to the impressive 2010 resume. The defense seems to be ready to carry the workload but the true test will be against Georgia this weekend.
The Rest Of the SEC West
The SEC west is going to be a tough place to succeed. Even if you discount Ole Miss the west is full of teams that come to play on any given Saturday.
Alabama is of course the team to beat at this point based on play thus far and the reputation of being the defending champions, but there are several other teams that cannot be counted out.
Auburn has played well on the season and has a great gunslinger in Cameron Newton. LSU is always a threat in the west and are getting inspired play from special teams and already have a win in conference. Mississippi St lost to Auburn in a close game, but is very talented and would provide a challenge to any team in the west. Finally Ole Miss did get upset in week one, but if Houston Nutt wants to beat any team in the west you can be assured that the Hogs are on his short list.
It All Starts Now
Two weeks is not too early to see how a team is performing. The hogs have looked good on offense and defense but seem to have a problem with turnovers. They have to address that problem because this week they travel to play Georgia on the road and this should be the first true test for the Hogs. The defense will have to face Aaron Murray and Mallett and company will face a tough Dawgs defense.
Not to mention that Bobby Petrino will have to make sure that his team is focused and not looking past this game for a big meeting with Alabama. Things look good if Arkansas is going to compete in the west, it all starts now!
Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews, and predictions. Feel Free to contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org