Photo by Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky Football

Week Seven Adversary -- Arkansas Razorbacks

October 11, 2019
236

Kentucky will come off a three game skid in the conference, and the question will be how will the Wildcats respond off of the bye week. Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran are 2-1 coming off of bye weeks since 2016. This one, however, might be the biggest they have faced yet. Kentucky has to get back to their identity on both ends to turn the tide on the 2019 season.

Both of these teams will come into this one at 2-3 off of a bye week, and they are both young teams that are growing every week. The Razorbacks had a bad touchdown loss against San Jose State at home, but they responded well and played a solid game against a good Texas A&M team in Dallas. Falling 31-27 to the Aggies, Chad Morris had plenty of positives to build off of as they travel to Lexington. 

These two teams find themselves in similar situations in this point of the season. The Wildcats and Razorbacks are similar in some areas, we will get into the matchups. Kentucky is a seven-point favorite over Arkansas.

Kentucky Defense vs Arkansas Offense

The Razorbacks offense likes to spread out the defense and they offer multiple spread formations. They can really keep a defense off balance with their running game and quarterback play. Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks have been in an odd quarterback competition all season. Starkel, the former Texas A&M Aggie, has received the bulk of the snaps to this point, but he suffered an injury against his former team last week. 

Ben Hicks is a guy that comes in when down 14-10, and he fights back to keep them in the football game. He came in and threw 15-for-27, 188 yards, and one touchdown. He took care of the football and was especially accurate on 10-to-15 yard routes. The Razorbacks generate their offense behind star back, Rakeem Boyd. At about six-foot, 215-pounds, Boyd offers great speed and runs powerfully. 

I don’t think Boyd is as good as Kylin Hill, but maybe a step behind. Boyd will be able to create plays if Kentucky’s defense gets gassed and is forced to play from behind. We have seen that out of the Wildcat defense in the previous two games, they have been put in tough situations because of the offense. The Wildcats will need to get to the quarterback, they have some young talent on the outside that can make plays. 

The two leaders on the outside are Sophomore Mike Woods and Freshman Trey Knox, they have 21 receptions a piece, Woods has 301 yards while Knox has 299. Woods and Knox combine for half of the groups touchdowns, as they each of have two. Woods is a great route runner that puts himself in good positions to make plays on the football. Knox is 6-foot-5, but poses his athletic ability in the receiving game, he is a rangy wideout. 

Both of these guys will test a Kentucky secondary that continues to grow. Coach Steven Clinckscale has been improving that young group every week and deserves credit. Kentucky is one of only four teams in the SEC that have more interceptions than touchdowns allowed in the passing game (Florida, Missouri, Texas A&M). Kentucky has only allowed three passing touchdowns, and ranks in the middle in terms of yards allowed through the air.

The secondary will need help as Kentucky will need to get to the quarterback. Arkansas protects their quarterback well, as they are third in the conference in sacks allowed, with just seven. Kentucky’s front seven has 12 sacks on the year, seven of those sacks came at home. 

The Razorbacks are under 40% on the year on third down. However, that is Kentucky’s biggest weakness, the Wildcats rank dead last in the SEC allowing 44% on third. Arkansas does struggle in the red zone, but they could exploit the front seven of Kentucky. Kentucky allows the second most yards on the ground and has allowed a conference high 12 touchdowns on the ground, tied with Mississippi State.

I would expect a lot of nickel from Brad White’s defense in this game. Juco safety, Quandre Mosely, has been increasing his field time and playing back deep as a safety. Jordan Griffin will probably see increased time as he was banged up heading into the bye week. Yusuf Corker and Tyrell Aijan will need to be active in the nickel package in second and third down situations.

Stoops has always shown to get in nickel packages against spread teams, and I would expect no different in this one. Nick Starkel is a bit more of an athlete, but the offense looks similar with Ben Hicks, both are accurate on 10 to 20 yard routes. The Wildcat offense will need to tighten up their run defense from what they have recently put out on the field, and that will be a tough task against the fiery Boyd. Kentucky has to limit the yards on first and second down to put the Razorbacks in predictable passing downs.

I think this is a football game where rangy athletes like Deandre Square, Chris Oats, and Quandre Mosely can really have an impact on. The defensive line for the Wildcats will have to create push, and the middle of the line with Quinton Bohanna and Marquan McCall can really dictate the trenches. How well the Wildcats can perform against the run will be the difference in this football game. White will have to dial up blitzes to create pressure, Kentucky can get pressure when sending five, but if they can get pressure just sending four will be the difference. 

This is a Razorbacks team that is averaging around 28 points per game, and it will be interesting to see how they match up against a Wildcats defense off of a bye week. Kentucky can not let Arkansas gain momentum early on the offensive side of the football. An early turnover could change the entire game, and this is a game that the first quarter will matter a lot, as both teams are coming off of a week off. Kentucky’s offense has really been the problem recently for allowing quick points to opponents, as they have thrown an interception on the first drive in both road trips. 

Kentucky Offense vs Arkansas Defense

Kentucky’s offense is sort of a question mark heading into this game. No one but the coaching staff truly knows what to expect. After taking a full week off from throwing with three separate injuries, Sawyer Smith was back at practice this week, but star wide receiver Lynn Bowden and Lexington native Walker Wood got those first team snaps in that week. How many quarterbacks will we see from Eddie Gran, and which will we see first?

There is a certain dynamic we saw in Columbia when Lynn Bowden took of the glove, on that five play, 84-yard drive that resulted in the Wildcats only points of the football game. With only one offensive touchdown in the previous two games, the Wildcats entered the week off with multiple areas of concern that has to be fixed. Bowden is versatile and can increase the production on the ground with run pass options, which Quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said is an area they have to improve on. 

There is a chance we may see Bowden with the glove off again on Saturday, and it might be better fundamentally after a week of first team reps. However, if Sawyer Smith is healthy enough to go, Kentucky would love Bowden’s presence on the outside. The number one receiver provides a mismatch that defenses have to account for and double team in certain situations, but Kentucky has to play better upfront on the offensive line and get the running game going. The Razorbacks play a lot of man-to-man defense on the outside, but they do show some zone as well. 

Defensive Coordinator John Chavis is a veteran coach in this conference, and he knows how to call game. He will be try to man up the Wildcats receivers on the outside, this will be a game of 50/50 balls and who wins more of those situations will likely win the football game. Kentucky needs a spark on offense, rather it be Smith or Bowden, the offense needs to get back to running the football. They will get chances to make plays in the passing game with the man coverage, but they have to have success on the ground because that has been there identity since Gran has been in charge.

This Arkansas team does allow long plays from scrimmage through the air and on the ground. They have an experienced defensive line and a back seven that continues to grow. They have some playmakers, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran mentioned some numbers in his Tuesday press conference (3, 8, 10, 21). Montaric Brown, number 21, is a defensive back with length and physicality at corner, number eight is De’Jon Harris, a hard hitting linebacker; number ten, a physical outside linebacker Bumper Pool that has a nose for the football, and number three, defensive lineman McTelvin Agim who is 6-foot-3, 300-pounds, and he has four tackles for loss, three sacks, and three quarterback hurries. 

This is an aggressive defense that takes its chances on one-on-one matchups across the board. Both of these defenses like man coverage, and often time perform at a higher level in that coverage rather than in zone coverage. I would expect a lot of cover one and cover zero from Arkansas’ defense, it will remain a question if Kentucky can capitalize on those 50/50 situations. We saw early that Sawyer Smith is capable of making accurate throws down the field. 

Bowden could give a needed bump in the run game if he gets a drive with the glove off. It will be tough for Arkansas’ defense to gameplan for both guys and adjust to that on the fly in the game. Kentucky has to get push upfront and open holes for the running game while also giving the quarterback time to throw and receivers to get open. Kentucky can have success with RPOs and throwing down the field, I think Bowden and Ahmad Wagner can impose their will.

Impact Razorbacks

Rakeem Boyd, Running Back

Boyd is a versatile presence on the offense, he runs angry and with power, he can also be a threat in the passing game. Kentucky has struggled recently with a lot of different backs, and Boyd is one of the best in the conference. This is a game that I think Deandre Square and Chris Oats are best equipped to be in the middle of the defense, they have the size and speed to perform the best in a nickel package. South Carolina’s Tavien Feaster and Rico Dowdle combined for 209 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns on the Wildcats, on week after Kylin Hill rushed for 120 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns; Kentucky allowed two 100-yard rushers against the Bulldogs and Gamecocks. 

McTelvin Agim, Defensive Lineman

With four tackles for loss, three sacks, three quarterback hurries, and one forced fumble, Agim is a dominant force on the line. He is more than capable of taking this game over and getting pressure through the middle of the defense. I would expect double teams with Drake Jackson and the guards helping then getting to the second level on linebackers. Agim will be a lot to handle for the Wildcats.

Montaric Brown, Corner

Brown is the best player in the Razorbacks secondary. He is a lengthy man-to-man corner and will probably cover Ahmad Wagner. His size will give him the ability to do that, he is much better on an island than in zone coverage. He can try to limit one of the Wildcats weapons on the outside, and Brown is a natural playmaker on the back end that can come up clutch with his versatility. 

Impact Wildcats

Lynn Bowden, Wide Receiver

I just have a feeling Bowden is about to have a big game, whether it be with the right glove on or off. He is the best player on this team and has done so much for Kentucky this season already. The offense would be in a really rough place without Bowden, but I think he has a big game off of the bye week, in all facets. Like he said multiple times on Tuesday, “I’m just ready to play football.” He is a mismatch for every team, and he will be able to get separation on a secondary if Brown is covering Wagner.

Deandre Square, Linebacker

Square is an athletic linebacker and always brings great energy on the defensive side of the football. I think he can make a huge impact on Saturday with his athleticism and physicality when meeting Rakeem Boyd in the hole. Star tight end Cheyenne O’Grady can be covered by Chris Oats, and I think it is ideal for that duo to happen frequently on Saturday, which we will likely see. That athletiscism inside can really help in the nickel package against Arkansas’ spread offense. 

Kavosiey Smoke, Running Back

The running game has to get going for Kentucky. This Arkansas team isn’t great against the run, but they aren’t terrible either. They are improving each week and the defensive line will make John Schlarman’s offensive line come to play. Smoke and or AJ Rose has to get going and bust off big plays on the ground, I also believe Chris Rodrigues could see a couple of carries in this one after his performance last week. 

One Strength

Arkansas

  • Experienced Defensive Line

Kentucky has not came to play recently, and the bye week might change things, but Arkansas has an experienced defensive line that could give Kentucky’s offensive line a handful. This game all starts upfront and they could really disrupt this offense especially if it doesn’t get going early. The front seven is improving and has personnel to have success against Kentucky.

Kentucky

  • Secondary

This young secondary has improved every single week this season. Steven Clinkscale and Dean Hood have done a tremendoue job with the back end of the defense. The additions of Quandre Mosely and Taj Dodson has gave the defense a boost schematically. This will also be the healthiest we have seen that group in weeks, and they can control that if they limit the run.

One Weakness

Arkansas

  • Timing

I think it is a tough time for this Arkansas team, and that is what is working against them. They get a sort of desperate Kentucky team at home off of a bye week on a special day. These are two of the youngest teams in the conference and in the country, and both of these teams have proved that by their efforts on the road this season. Arkansas has only had one true road game this year, and it was against Ole Miss, which lead them to their lowest scoring outing of the season and a loss. 

Kentucky

  • Third Down

Kentucky is a mess all around on the most important down in football. The defense allows the highest conversion percentage on third down in the SEC and the Wildcats have combined for a horrendous 3-for-27 offensively over the past two games. On both sides of the football, that is an alarming stat that has to change this weekend. Kentucky has to improve in that area if they want to get wins in the second half of the season and on Saturday.

B3 Keys to the Game

- 1st Quarter
- Turnover Margin
- Big Plays

The first quarter of this ball game will be huge. Kentucky has thrown an interception on the first drive of the football game over the past two weeks. That is a total momentum killer for an offense early. Both Arkansas and Kentucky have failed to score any points against conference opponents in the first quarter this season; the quarterback have to take care of the football for each team, but Kentucky cannot afford another slow start especially off of the bye week. 

Turnovers are big and in a game like this they can change the outcome. Kentucky’s defense have been oprotunistic for the most part, but at the same token, the offense has been pretty careless with the football. There is a good chance that the winner of the football game also wins the turnover margin. 

It will come down to which offense can come up big and get loose on the defenses. Kentucky will have to improve from what they have been, and we will see if those changes will be made. Arkansas needs to get a hot start on the road because that is critical in SEC football if you want to leave with a win. Both defense allow explosive plays at the second and third levels in man-to-man defenses, who wins those one-on-one situations and creates long plays from scrimmage will have the edge.

Prediction

Kentucky is coming off of the bye week at home in a tremendously special day for the Univeristy of Kentucky and the football program, honoring a player who will always be remembered by people around the Wildcats. Emotions will be running high as both teams are coming off bye weeks searching for their first conference win of the season. It is hard to win on the road in this conference, especially when you have a young football team, and both of these teams early performances are a reflection of that. I believe it will be a close game, but I do give Kentucky the edge and to cover the spread (-7).

Kentucky 28 Arkansas 20

 

 

 

 

Discussion from...

Week Seven Adversary -- Arkansas Razorbacks

59 Views | 0 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Braxton Howard
There are not any replies to this post yet.
Page 1 of 1
 
×
Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.