Arkansas is going to be heavily favored against Tennessee this Saturday, and they should be.
Tennessee is 4-5, without a win in the SEC, while Arkansas has only lost one game, and that was to Alabama. Furthermore, Arkansas will be playing at home, where they haven't lost since Week 4 of 2010.
However, I submit to you the idea that Tennessee has a realistic chance of winning this game.
Yes, I know it sounds crazy. Don't get me wrong; I am not picking Tennessee in this game, nor am I advising you to, but I am saying that it's a game to keep an eye on.
Tennessee has struggled after injuries have killed the depth chart. Tennessee's quarterback, best receiver and two of their better defenders (Herman Lathers and Brent Brewer) are out right now. However, DeAnthony Arnett is doing a pretty capable job of replacing Justin Hunter, and Justin Worley looks to be much improved after his performance against MTSU.
If they can keep it up, then Tennessee will be significantly better than they were against South Carolina.
The biggest reason that Tennessee can beat Arkansas, however, is the fact that Arkansas has dropped the ball lately. I don't know what has happened at Arkansas recently, but they nearly lost to Mississippi, the worst team in the SEC, then nearly lost to Vanderbilt.
Mississippi is the worst team in the SEC right now. After the loss to Kentucky, there's no disputing it. Even so, they had Arkansas beat until they threw an interception at the last second. Mississippi's only wins this season were against Southern Illinois and Fresno State.
Vanderbilt also nearly had Arkansas beat, but Arkansas managed to take the lead with a field goal with less than seven minutes left. Vanderbilt had been leading nearly the entire game.
Further back, Texas A&M had Arkansas on its heels, up 35-17 at the end of the second quarter. Unfortunately, A&M started playing prevent defense too early, and Arkansas managed to tie it up 35-35 in the fourth quarter. Arkansas carried that momentum and won the game 41-38.
Arkansas had some close games, and they've been lucky so far. Tennessee, on the other hand, has been pretty unlucky. In case you've forgotten, Tennessee was in scoring range against South Carolina five times, but that resulted in two turnovers, two field goals and one missed field goal.
South Carolina only managed to put up 14 points on Tennessee's defense. They went to Arkansas the next week and put up double that, so Arkansas's defense isn't as scary as it might have appeared to be earlier in the season.
If Justin Worley's improvement is real, and not just a product of playing lower level competition, then Tennessee has a chance against Arkansas. If nothing else, he'll be playing a lesser defense. If he can limit critical turnovers, then Tennessee can put up some points.
I've been optimistic most of the season, and I've been wrong. I'm still saying Tennessee's chances are slim, but Arkansas has dropped the ball before. They could do it again, and this time, luck might not be on their side.
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