Arkansas faces Kentucky on Saturday in Lexington. Here are your three keys to a Arkansas win over Kentucky.
By Matt Zemek
The Arkansas Razorbacks and Kentucky Wildcats were both idle in Week 6, giving themselves a chance to prepare for Week 7 of a season which has not gone the way they hoped.
Arkansas showed promise in a September win over Colorado State, but that win didn’t translate into a sustained level of high-quality football. A home-field loss to San Jose State took the air out of the balloon, and as a result, Arkansas is now in a much worse position in the fight for bowl eligibility. The Hogs have to pick off the more winnable games on their SEC schedule if they want to go bowling in December.
This game against Kentucky fits that description.
Arkansas does have some reason to be confident, however. The Razorbacks played like a team worthy of a 6-6 record against Texas A&M, narrowly losing to the talented Aggies. Yet, Arkansas always seems to get up for the A&M game. It doesn’t always use a good performance against the Aggies as a building block for the rest of the year. The Hogs have to do precisely that against Kentucky. We will get a strong idea of what this team is capable of when it plays Big Blue.
Key 1 – Move the sticks with Hicks
The SMU Mustangs are unbeaten with a former Texas quarterback, Shane Buechele, leading the way. Arkansas turned to a former SMU quarterback against A&M in an SEC game with a distinct Southwest Conference flavor.
Ben Hicks gave form, fluidity and structure to the Arkansas offense. He appears to give this team the best chance of consistently moving the ball. His familiarity with Chad Morris’s offensive principles certainly helps. That needs to pay off against a Kentucky defense which is well-coached by Mark Stoops.
Spectacular plays fill highlight reels, but Arkansas can’t expect to be spectacular. It needs to be steady and reliable, establishing a standard it can maintain through the rest of the season. It starts with Ben Hicks.
Key 2 – Contain Ahmad Wagner
Kentucky’s offense has struggled in recent weeks, with backup quarterback Sawyer Smith struggling to lead the offense he inherited from Terry Wilson. After a week off, Kentucky hopes it will be rejuvenated and more creative, developing plays and concepts which can enable Smith to be more successful.
Yet, while Kentucky will try to scheme its passing game in ways which get receivers open, there will almost certainly be some occasions in which the Wildcats simply say, “Ahmad Wagner, go up in traffic and get the ball!” Arkansas has to be able to not let Wagner win too many jump balls, certainly not in big situations.
Key 3 – Hunger
It is always easy for Arkansas to treat Texas A&M as its Super Bowl every year… but can the Hogs show that they can play with a high level of clarity and intensity every week? This is the time to prove a very important point.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:30 PM CT (7:30 PM ET). Watch on the SEC Network.
|Game||First Looks||3 Keys|
|South Carolina vs. Georgia||USC / UGA||USC / UGA||Preview||USC 20, UGA 17||Stats|
|Arkansas vs. Kentucky||Arky / Kentucky||Arky / Kentucky||Preview||UK 24, Arky 17||Stats|
|Florida vs. LSU||Florida / LSU||LSU / Florida||Preview||LSU 42, Florida 28||Stats|
|Ole Miss vs. Missouri||Ole Miss / Mizzou||Ole Miss / Mizzou||Preview||Mizzou 38, Ole Miss 27||Stats|
|Mississippi State vs. Tennessee||Tennessee / MSU||MSU / Tennessee||Preview||Tennessee 20, MSU 10||Stats|
|Alabama vs. Texas A&M||Bama / A&M||A&M / Bama||Preview||Bama 47, A&M 28||Stats|
|UNLV vs. Vanderbilt||UNLV||Vandy||Preview||UNLV 34, Vandy 10||Stats|