KEYS FOR A HOGS VICTORY

Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring is always intense, but seemed to kick it up a notch as the Razorbacks prepared for their next opponent this week. There was a little more fire in his belly on the practice field. More venom in his post-practice speeches.

But Herring wasn't getting his group ready for Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee or LSU. He's preparing them for Florida International.

That's right. The Golden Panthers, who are considered one of the worst teams in the NCAA's Bowl Subdivision. They have a 19-game losing streak. But Herring said his concern is sincere and it's a message the entire coaching staff has tried to spread this week.

"It's not hard to get up for Auburn," Herring said. "It's not hard to get up for LSU. It's not hard to get up for South Carolina. These games challenge you more as a coach and more as a player. ... This game is going to be a major, major challenge for us as a team."



1. TAKE FIU SERIOUSLY

The last time Arkansas played a team it was supposed to roll over, the Razorbacks were surprised and disappointed by their struggles. The Hogs are hoping the 34-15 win against Tennessee-Chattanooga was a valuable lesson: Don't take the Golden Panthers lightly.

Surely they remember the consequences. The first snap of the UTC game went over quarterback Casey Dick and resulted in a safety. Tailback Darren McFadden lost two fumbles in the first half. The defense allowed a long touchdown run and the Hogs struggled all night.

"For anybody to make a joke about our opponent or who we're playing is either in a daze or another time zone," Herring said.



2. FORCE TURNOVERS

Arkansas got a first-hand look at the impact of turnovers during its 44-8 win at Ole Miss last week. Any time the Rebels seemed to get something going on offense, quarterback Seth Adams had a pass intercepted by the Razorbacks to end another drive and set up an Arkansas score.

The Hogs four turnovers last week helped them win the turnover battle for the first time this season. All four were interceptions, which is the most they've picked off since grabbing five against Louisiana-Monroe last season. Arkansas should have opportunities to collect more against the Golden Panthers. FIU has committed 22 turnovers in seven games this season, which ranks 112th in the nation.



3. MCFADDEN, JONES, MCFADDEN, JONES

After a frustrating performance against Tennessee-Chattanooga and a disappointing one in the Auburn loss, the Razorbacks got running backs McFadden and Felix Jones back on track at Ole Miss. Both eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the ninth time in their careers in the win.

The biggest plays came early on for both backs. McFadden's 30-yard run on a third-and-short play on the Razorbacks first possession kept a drive alive. Jones polished it off on the next play with a 38-yard touchdown run around the right side of the offensive line.

FIU, like every other team the Hogs have faced, will be gearing up to stop the two backs today. Arkansas' success will determine whether this is a blowout win or a nonconference nail-biter.



4. MARCUS MONK

OK. So Marcus Monk's expected return to the field after missing most of the first seven games with a knee injury won't likely have an impact in the outcome of today's game. But the sight of the 6-foot-6, 220-pound receiver running routes and catching passes without any pain or problems would certainly energize the Razorbacks.

Monk has played only one down this season, but coach Houston Nutt said the veteran will give it a go against the Golden Panthers. If Monk can run a few routes, catch a couple of passes and excel in his first test it will mean plenty to Arkansas. Especially Dick, who would love to get reacquainted with his big-time target as the stretch run begins.



5. LEAN ON THE D-LINE

Arkansas' defense dealt with injuries, suspensions and some constant shifting early in the season, but seems to be settling in after a couple of strong performances against Auburn and Ole Miss.

There will be one slight change today: Adrian Davis and Antwain Robinson will be splitting time at defensive end. Davis will be used on first and second down and in run situations. Robinson will be on the field on third down and in passing situations.

Arkansas collected a season-high six sacks against Ole Miss, but will have its hands full chasing fleet-footed FIU quarterback Wayne Younger. The Hogs' ability to slow Younger and the FIU ground game will be a big key today.



THE COUNTERMEASURES

Is it hard to carry around a 19-game losing streak? Florida International coach Mario Cristobal doesn't think so. The first-year coach said his team's progress hasn't been impeded despite the 0-7 start or the fact the Golden Panthers haven't won a game since December 2005.

Instead, FIU said it's concentrating on the little things that will help the program build in the long run. Make a positive play here. Learn a lesson there. More important, don't think about what happened in the past.

"You don't want to go out there and have something on your mind," defensive lineman Jonathan Betancourt said. "You don't want to be on the field. You could be on the field going through a play and thinking about stuff that has happened in the past. You want to clear your mind and focus on the task at hand."

That task is a difficult one against Arkansas today. But Betancourt said FIU isn't banking on leaving Fayetteville with its 20th straight loss.



1. AVOID CARELESS MISTAKES

There's no quicker way to fall into an insurmountable hole than by piling up costly penalties, blown coverages, missed tackles or careless turnovers in the early going on the road.

It has happened to FIU all year and is a big reason it has lost 19 straight games. The Golden Panthers rank 119th -- and last -- in the nation in scoring offense (8.3 points a game) and 118th in total offense (227.6 yards). They're 114th in scoring defense (38.9 points) and 104th in total defense (456.7 yards).

So FIU may be looking to snap its long losing skid, but knows it must play a near-perfect game to beat Arkansas. Mistakes must be eliminated.



2. WAYNE YOUNGER

FIU's quarterback, holds the keys to the Golden Panthers' offensive success this afternoon. The redshirt freshman is a dual-threat, leading FIU in rushing (245 yards) and passing (954 yards).

Younger will test Arkansas' patience on passing downs. Even if the Razorbacks have FIU's receivers under wraps, Younger is capable of scrambling out of the pocket and picking up first downs. Arkansas collected a season-high six sacks against Ole Miss last week, but his ability to scramble and break free for big gains could help FIU today.

"It all starts with the quarterback and his athleticism," Herring said. "He's a major, major concern. Any time you have to put in special stuff to defend his running skills, it takes away from everything else."



3. SLOW THE HOGS GROUND GAME

It's no secret what FIU must do if it has any hopes of beating the Razorbacks today. Or even staying close for that matter. The Golden Panthers must find a way to slow the Hogs overpowering ground game.

But the numbers show that could be a very, very tough task. FIU is 102nd in the nation in rushing defense (201.6 yards a game). The Golden Panthers have allowed four of their seven opponents to eclipse the 200-yard rushing mark. Arkansas is fourth on the nation in rushing, averaging 293.1 yards a game. The Razorbacks have eclipsed the 250-yard mark in six of their seven games this season.

"Their running game is about as strong as it gets," Cristobal said. "Their offensive line is extremely aggressive and physical and athletic."



4. ESTABLISH THE RUN

Younger may lead FIU in rushing, but the Golden Panthers will be counting on the tailback tandem of A'mod Ned (216 yards) and Julian Reams (123 yards, one touchdown) to control the game.

FIU hasn't had much success rushing the football this season. They're 110th in the nation in rushing yards a game (91.1). One big reason is that is has fallen behind early in games and had to throw the ball in hopes of catching up. But the longer FIU can keep its offense on the field, hand the ball to its running backs, pick up first downs on the ground and stay in the game, the better its hopes are for pulling off an upset.

"We have to execute," Ned said. "That's the big thing. We know that we have to do: It comes down to stopping the run and running the ball."



5. KEEP THINGS CLOSE

For as much as FIU has struggled, it has played some big-name opponents relatively close this season. The Golden Panthers suffered a 26-10 loss at Maryland. They lost to in-state foe Miami 23-9 a week later.

So FIU knows what it has to do to keep pace with the Razorbacks in Fayetteville this afternoon: Score a touchdown early, come up with a big stop on defense, make a play on special teams. The better the start, the better things could be for the Golden Panthers in the second half.

If not, things could get really, really ugly. For example, FIU fell behind 24-0 at halftime in its 59-0 loss at Penn State in the opener. More recently, FIU gave up 47 first-half points in its 47-6 loss to Middle Tennessee.

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