State of the Hogs: Top 10 List (Tennessee)

Career receptions record on the line Saturday night? Who ends up with the record, Jarius Wright or Joe Adams?

Stats are for losers, unless you are winning. In that case, they are genuine fun. There's nothing like turning to the scoreboard in a runaway and counting yards, completions, turnovers and then figuring up if or not they are record numbers.

That's what Bobby Petrino brings to the table as head coach. The scoreboard can often explode with numbers.

It should be no surprise that Jarius Wright and Joe Adams are within one quarter of moving ahead of Anthony Eubanks and D. J. Williams as the all-time leaders in receptions at the school.

My takeaway on that is to recognize that they both still have several games to play this season. But, no matter what is the final number and no matter who is number one or two, the chances are good that someone we have yet to identify could break those numbers as Bobby Petrino continues to improve the program.

One of the keys to Wright and Adams is that they need each other and feed off of each other. It's the nature of the system that a defense can take away one, but it can't take both or everything in the Petrino system. That's the give and take to what this system does.

And that's where will start the Top 10 List of things to watch in the matchup with Tennessee. Game time is at 5 p.m. Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. ESPN2 has the cable coverage.

1. Tennessee secondary
How will the Vols try to matchup with the Arkansas wideouts? Can they matchup? Or will they have to play zone. They do play more bracket zone than most teams in the SEC. Bobby Petrino's system generally turns zones into big passing plays. If you don't get immediate pressure on Tyler Wilson, he'll pick a zone to part. He did that last week over the first three quarters of the South Carolina game. Carolina tried to play cover three zone. You can't do that against the Hogs without NFL players.

2. Pass protection
Again, this comes down to an improving Arkansas offensive line. That group had its best game last week. Its tackles -- Grant Freeman and Jason Peacock -- got a lot of credit for putting the clamps on the Carolina defensive ends, a highly regarded group with three players rotating and speed everywhere. But don't minimize what the center Travis Swanson and guards Alvin Bailey and Grant Cook did. They pushed their inside tackles to the side and gave room for Wilson to step up in the pocket, providing passing angles. They made sure a moving pocket was protected up the middle. It should also be noted that these inside blockers worked together with the tackles to give Dennis Johnson wiggle room on the draws and inside running off of pass sets. It was those runs that kept Carolina from blitzing. The linebackers had to stay home. Tennessee has a solid interior line, starting with senior tackle Mahlik Jackson. Arkansas coaches and players praised Jackson's intensity and effort after watching his tapes. By the same token, can the Hogs get pressure and wreck the UT protections. The Hog did that last week with blitzes and straight rushes from their ends. Does Tenarius Wright provide some new bullets in the pass rush. Protection and end play is huge in SEC football these days. The Hogs look like they have among the best defensive ends around again.

3. Senior day
There are 17 seniors on this Arkansas roster and many have played key roles through the years as Arkansas has risen into the top 10 after a BCS appearance last year, the school's first. This is their last game in their on-campus stadium. They have spoken about the emotion that will pour through them when they run through the A for the last time. It's a star studded group, starting with Wright and Adams. There are other headline seniors like Jake Bequette. And there those who have quietly worked in backup roles for most of their careers, but stepped into huge situations and performed well in the rebuilt offensive line like Freeman and Cook. Then there are those like Seth Armbrust and Broderick Green who have battled back from recent ACL surgeries to contribute in big ways as fifth-year seniors.

4. Steve Caldwell
The second-year Arkansas assistant coach has stayed in the background this week. It's probably Steve Caldwell's decision. But this has to be a huge week for Caldwell, who was assistant coach at UT from 1995-2008. He was a big part of Phil Fulmer's success at UT as a top recruiter and coach for a string of All-SEC defensive ends. He came to Arkansas last season and had an immediate impact. He had a hand in recruiting some key members of last season's recruiting class. There are probably some Vols left who remember Caldwell. Surely playing against the Vols is meaningful and will be emotional for Caldwell, too. Look at each side's defensive ends during the and decide if you like where Arkansas is going with its young ends -- Trey Flowers, Chris Smith, Horace Arkadie and Darrell Kelly-Thomas.

5. Brandon Mitchell
Quarterback play is always on this list. It's as big a part of what goes on in each football game as anything that happens. Arkansas has a clear edge in this department with both Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell. And expect Mitchell to play a little more this week as Arkansas continues to add to his role in short yardage situation. He's a lefthanded curve ball for a defense when he's in the game. He just needs more polish. This could be a week that he gets it.

6. Tyler Wilson
It should be interesting to watch to see if Wilson has a typical home performance for an Arkansas quarterback. And make no mistake about it, the Hogs have gotten great play -- not just good -- from their quarterbacks at home. Garrick McGee said Wilson gets better every week. It's the natural maturation of a quarterback with nine starts under his belt.

7. Justin Worley
That's the Tennessee quarterback. He had his best performance last week against Middle Tennessee. He's filling in for the injured Tyler Bray, predicted to be one of the top SEC quarterbacks, but out with a broken thumb. Bray got his cast off this week, but he's not nearly ready to play. It will be interesting to see if Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson calls more blitzes for the second straight week. Connor Shaw couldn't handle the blitzes. Generally, coaches blitz the average quarterbacks and stay back in coverage against the good ones. More and more, Arkansas has been able to go after quarterbacks in November because they aren't on the same level as the Arkansas quarterbacks. Wilson got blitzed early, but not as much of late. Watch to see what happens to that trend.

8. Turnovers and penalties
Arkansas is the heavy favorite. Can they play like a heavy favorite and make it hard on the Vols? You do that by eliminating turnovers and penalties. The Hogs might have had their best defensive performance last week, but key penalties helped Carolina on two of their three touchdown marches. Almost half of the USC yards came via defensive penalties on one of those drives. Some were so simple as lining up out of the neutral zone. Tennessee's offense needs help if it's going to score many points. The Hogs have to make sure they don't give help either by penalties or turnovers.

9. Physicality
As simple as that may sound, winning the hitting battle is always the key in football. Can the Hogs play with emotion and physical presence in a game it is supposed to dominate? That's sometimes harder to do than most suspect. Can they run the ball when they have the lead? It has appeared that the Hogs had their stinger last week against No. 9 South Carolina. Perhaps they felt threatened. They need to play with that same physical intensity against an underdog oppponent this week.

10. Atmosphere
What will it be like Saturday night in Reynolds Razorback Stadium? The atmosphere was out of sight last week for the Carolina game. Will Arkansas fans match that this week. It's a sellout, a good sign. But deer season has opened. Some may stay home. Will fans get their tickets to some who don't usually get to a game? And how will they react Saturday night. Arkansas players raved about the atmosphere last week. Will it be like that this time, too?

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