Bowl Game Could Be A Matter Of Time

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Five minutes is not a lot of time to do much. You can make a pot of coffee, talk on the phone or hurry through one of those six-minute abdominal workouts.

But when it comes to football, five minutes can feel like a long time, especially for an opposing defense.

If Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema had his way, Monday's Capital One Bowl would turn into a game of seconds, not inches. That's because his team leads the nation in time of possession, holding the football for an average of 33 minutes, 46 seconds per game.

Arkansas, meanwhile, ranks 102nd in the same category. The Razorbacks have struggled this season when it comes to time of possession, averaging just 28:33 per game.

That's a difference of nearly five minutes between what Wisconsin's slow and methodical offense has managed. It's 5:13 to be exact.

But the question remains: Will time of possession play a factor when the Razorbacks and Badgers meet on New Year's Day?

"We want (time of possession) to be a big factor in every game that Wisconsin plays. That's something that I really believe in," Bielema said. "I know it's not too hard to figure out if you've got the ball longer than they do, you've got a better chance to score more than they do. And that's what our offense is kind of built around."

Wisconsin has reeled off 11 wins this season, thanks in part to a physical offense that likes to run the football, complete short passes and put together long, time-consuming scoring drives.

Arkansas has taken a different approach when it comes to scoring. For the most part, the touchdowns have come rather quickly, which has contributed to the Razorbacks' low time of possession.

Of all the offensive touchdowns Arkansas has scored this season in regulation, 20 of them have come on drives that lasted less than two minutes.

Nine of the touchdowns have come in under one minute, thanks in part to several long runs by tailbacks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

"Ideally you'd like to have 12-, 13-play drives," Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. "It keeps your defense off the field, but we want to outscore them. We just want to score points."

But Arkansas could have trouble scoring quick touchdowns against Wisconsin's defense. While studying film for the bowl game, one thing that Malzahn noticed was that the Badgers haven't given up too many big plays this year.

"I think (time of possession) will be important, but the bottom line is going to be scoring points," Malzahn said. "We've had the ability to make some big plays this year. If we can score points through big plays, we'll take that for sure."

Despite their knack for scoring quickly, Arkansas' coaches and players insist time of possession is a statistic that they pay much attention to.

If a team can control the clock, it gives the offense a better chance to score and it tires out the opposing defense.

"Defensively, we take a lot of stock into it. I mean anytime your offense goes out there and controls the time of possession of a game, you feel good about it," Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. "It's when you don't control the time of possession and you're out there a whole lot and you're not putting points on the board, it becomes a factor."

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said he's not too concerned with the Capital One Bowl coming down to whichever team can hold the ball longer. He just wants his offense to be efficient.

The Razorbacks are 7-2 in games this season in which they have held the ball less time than the opposing team. But time of possession could turn out to be a factor against the Badgers. At least that's what Bielema hopes.

"I think (time of possession) is a stat that is overlooked by a lot of people, but as far as a football team, we pay attention to it," Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said. "So if we keep the defense off the field and wear their defense down, I think that will play into our hands and hopefully we'll be able to come out with a (win)."

Time After Time

Arkansas ranks 102nd in the nation in time of possession, holding onto the football for an average of 28 minutes, 33 seconds per game. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks are giving up an average of 31:27 a game to their opponents.

But despite the disparity in numbers, Arkansas has managed to win even when it doesn't control the clock.

Opponent (time of possession) Arkansas Result

USC (35:19) 24:41 Loss

Utah State (34:58) 25:02 Win

Vanderbilt (32:27) 27:33 Win

Alabama (39:32) 20:28 Win

SEMO (30:04) 29:56 Win

Ole Miss (32:25) 27:35 Win

ULM (32:50) 27:10 Win

Miss. State (30:26) 29:34 Win

LSU (33:32) 26:28 Loss

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