In reality, the Razorbacks should enjoy another cakewalk -- no pun intended -- against the Mocs, who hail from the newly named Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
But Arkansas still has plenty to accomplish in tonight's game. Show more improvement in the passing game, find ways to stop an opponent on defense and even get some big plays from the punt return team. In those regards, it's an important night with next week's critical game against Auburn looming.
1. START FAST
Even though Tennessee-Chattanooga shouldn't present much of a challenge for the Razorbacks, Arkansas shouldn't test the waters by getting off to a sluggish start. The Hogs must do everything possible to mimic last week's perfect start in which they raced out to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter, pulled key players at halftime and enjoyed the rest of the night.
Score a touchdown on the opening possession to take and early lead. Force Tennessee-Chattanooga to go three-plays-and-out on its first possession. Make a back-breaking play on special teams. All of the early work should help bury the Mocs' hopes of pulling off an Appalachian State-like upset tonight.
2. BUILD CONFIDENCE THROUGH THE AIR
The Razorbacks can win this game by simply handing the ball to Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis, Brandon Barnett or anyone else out of the backfield. Each running back will get plenty of carries, too. But it shouldn't be their only objective.
Arkansas showed signs of life in its lackluster passing offense against North Texas last week and need to continue building confidence through the air even though Marcus Monk remains sidelined and Robert Johnson is questionable with an ankle injury. Toss a deep ball on the first play from scrimmage. Through six or seven consecutive passes on a drive. Get comfortable throwing it.
3. KEEP PLAYERS HEALTHY
Arkansas has much, much bigger games coming up, so the most important goal should be much the same as last week's win against North Texas. Get your key players in the game. Open up a big lead in the first half. Then pull them to the sidelines and start preparing for next Saturday's game against Auburn.
Obviously, everyone wants to see McFadden break the school record in his hometown in Little Rock, but it better not come in a the fourth quarter of a blowout. The same can be said for Jones, Hillis, Casey Dick and other key components.
4. JERELL NORTON
The sophomore may have lost his starting spot at cornerback two weeks ago, but he'll get a chance to lock down an important role as Arkansas' punt returner tonight. Coach Houston Nutt is giving Norton a shot to return punts in place of fullback Peyton Hillis in hopes of finding a big-play threat on special teams.
Arkansas is averaging a paltry 3.4 yards a punt return, which is 11th in the SEC and 112th in the nation. Norton averaged 10 yards on his only return this season. If he can field the ball cleanly and show some big-play capability tonight, it will give the Razorbacks much more confidence heading into the meat of their SEC schedule.
5. GET PRESSURE UP FRONT
Arkansas' performance along its defensive front has been shaky and disappointing. But after a confidence-building performance last week, the Hogs are looking for more results against Tennessee-Chattanooga.
The Razorbacks are planning to start the foursome of Adrian Davis, Malcolm Sheppard, Ernest Mitchell and Antwain Robinson for the second straight week. They're also counting on production from backups like Damario Ambrose, who was named the SEC's Defensive Lineman of the Week after collecting eight tackles and 1 1/2 for losses against North Texas. They'll be expected to stuff the run and harass the quarterback.
Tennessee-Chattanooga hasn't ventured west of the Mississippi River to play in 11 years. That's right. The Mocs aren't just taking on a Southeastern Conference opponent, they're taking their own little Lewis and Clark journey into Little Rock to play the Razorbacks tonight. The last time the Mocs played west of the Mississippi River was in a loss at Colorado State in 1996. They haven't won a game since beating Boise State in 1992.
OK, there's not much hope of a repeat of the Boise State win for coach Rodney Allison's team, which is coming off a dismal, 45-16 loss to The Citadel last week. The Mocs are 4-108-1 all-time against the SEC. Their last SEC win? It came in a 14-6 win against Tennessee way back in 1958.
1. BELIEVE IT CAN HAPPEN
No one in their right mind will predict a Tennessee-Chattanooga upset tonight. But, then again, no one predicted Appalachian State would beat Michigan in the season opener. Appy State gave Division I Football Championship Subdivision teams hope that it's possible to knock off a giant. That's something the Mocs will cling to tonight.
"That deal with Appalachian State (beating Michigan) gives us all a little glimmer of hope," Allison said. "Is it likely to happen? The percentages are not in our favor. But you never know."
2. ANTONIO MILLER
The Mocs quarterback has accounted for seven of the team's 11 touchdowns even though he missed one game earlier this season because of an injury. Miller has thrown five touchdown passes, rushed for two more and will be the key to Tennessee-Chattanooga's offensive success in Little Rock tonight.
Miller seems to be growing as a quarterback. All five of Miller's touchdown passes have come in the past two games since returning from the injury. He got three of them in the win against Georgia Southern two weeks ago. Not bad, considering Miller had just four touchdown passes last season and eight in his career entering 2007.
Every little bit of it will help a team averaging 24.2 points and 275.5 yards a game.
3. SLOW MCFADDEN, JONES, ETC.
Allison is an intelligent football coach. He knows the keys to Arkansas' offensive success like anyone else. He also knows it'll be impossible for his defense to stuff tailback Darren McFadden after watching him roll for 138 yards and two touchdowns the first half alone last week. But the Mocs will step on the field hoping to limit the things McFadden, Jones and the Razorbacks run game have done so far this year.
"We have to slow them down some," he said. "They are one of the better running teams in the country. We have to play this game in three- or four-minute cycles. We have to stay on top of it, and if we don't, it can get out of hand."
4. JOSEPH THORNTON
Tennessee-Chattanooga linebacker Joseph Thornton has been a bright spot in what has been an otherwise dismal year for the Mocs. The sophomore has 12 tackles for losses, which leads all defenders in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
None of Thornton's tackles for losses have been sacks, but the 6-foot-2, 209-pound linebacker has caused problems for opposing offenses because of his ability to get in the backfield. One of his most notable moments came in the 41-16 loss to The Citadel. Thornton dropped running back Tory Cooper in the end zone for a safety.
5. DON'T GET STARSTRUCK
It's not every day that a program like Tennessee-Chattanooga gets to line up against a Heisman Trophy candidate, but the Mocs will get an up-close view of McFadden. Allison said the Arkansas back is impressive and compared him to former Texas and NFL great Earl Campbell.
But Allison said his players won't be on the field simply looking for an autograph tonight.
"I think football players, whatever level it is, like to play great players," Allison said. "It motivates them to have the opportunity to go out and play Arkansas and McFadden who they see on SportsCenter and who is potentially going to be up there high in the Heisman voting. That motivates them to try to up their game to prove that they can play with those guys."
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