Arkansas’ season has slowly but surely come back to Earth after an otherworldly start. Sam Pittman is clearly the guy for the job at Arkansas — he clearly has the program on the right track — but he has some work to do before the Razorbacks are ready to take on the elite of the SEC, having lost to Georgia, Ole Miss, and Auburn in consecutive weeks.
By Matt Zemek
This game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff couldn’t have come at a better time with Mississippi State, LSU, and Alabama all on the horizon. This game against Pine-Bluff is a chance for Pittman to play backups and younger players without burning redshirts (under the four-game redshirt rule) and save the starters for the SEC home stretch in November.
1 – K.J. Jefferson needs to get back to being the X-Factor
K.J. Jefferson is a great athlete and Sam Pittman knows it. He’s had some good games with some solid stats, but he has X-factor-level talent and he needs to start playing like it. Arkansas needs Jefferson to be more proactive and aggressive, taking on the workload of the offense so that teammates can follow his lead. The Arkansas offense has been special at times this year, but it was inconsistent against Auburn and Texas A&M. Jefferson has the skill set and the ceiling to make the Hogs hum with efficiency and potency. Getting into an early groove in this game could establish a sense that Arkansas will be ready for November.
2 – The Razorback defense must improve
The Razorbacks are a decent team, but they’re not a great team. What’s been holding them back from taking that next step is their scoring defense, which is currently ranked No. 75 in the country. While that’s better than some of the teams remaining on their schedule, their scoring offense isn’t where it needs to be to keep pace in shootouts. A perfect case of this was the Ole Miss game, in which Arkansas was outscored by one point and both teams combined put up over 100 points. Unlike the NFL, teams can rarely add explosive offensive talent in college football midway through the season. Trades can’t be made. Improved team defense will win a lot of games, and that’s what Arkansas needs in a big way. A positive showing against APB will give them a boost heading down the stretch.
3 – Get Raheim Sanders going early
Raheim Sanders is one of the best backs in the nation and he’s had a yo-yo season. If he can get some consistency (read: if Arkansas can get him going), this team and Sanders have a chance to do real harm to their opponents. He’s 43rd in the nation in rushing yards per carry. He averages 5.54 yards per carry, but he’s not even the best running back on his team in rushing yards per game. That honor goes to Trelon Smith with 62.1 yards per game. Sanders is 109th in the nation in rushing yards per game with only 55.4, which is 0.3 yards better than K.J. Jefferson (55.1 ypg). Sanders needs to find consistency from game to game. There is no better time to get back on track than against an in-state rival from the FCS.