The goal when you begin the SEC football season is to make the championship game in Atlanta. Some talk about the Bowl Championship Series, but that's not the target. If you make the title game in Atlanta, then everything else takes care of itself.
So, with three SEC games left among Arkansas' five remaining contests, can the Hogs make it to Atlanta?
It's not out of reach if the Hogs continue to improve each week. They've got some work to do before they can think about that and it'll start this week with Troy State.
Here are some things that the Hogs must do if they are going to challenge in the SEC West the rest of the way:
1, The Hogs must improve their passing game. They must do a better job of pass protection if they are to accomplish that mission. Too many times Matt Jones has had to scramble for his life when they've called a pass, even on first down.
2, The Hogs must do a better job of defending the pass, and that starts with the defensive front and the linebackers (not the secondary as most believe). Arkansas must improve their linebacker drops. Most of Eli Manning's completions last week were short throws in areas that should have had some linebacker coverage. And, the pass rush must improve. It appeared the defensive line stayed after practice to work on their containment and pass rush. Hopefully, we'll see some improvement there this week.
3, The Hogs must continue to improve their special teams. That was a huge part of last week's Ole Miss victory, but it would be nice to see some consistency there. With no injuries in those areas this past week, maybe there will be some consistency over the next few weeks.
4, The Hogs must continue to force some turnovers with the defense. That has been the common denominator in the four victories so far this season. If the Hogs continue to be on the plus side in turnover ratio the rest of the way, they'll have a chance to be in the hunt for the SEC title game as LSU rolls into town the day after Thanksgiving.
5, The Hogs must avoid injuries. That may sound like a silly thing to say, but it may be the biggest factor of all. They've lost a few players to injury on defense and can't afford any more. Tony Bua is likely to miss this week's game and they can't lose more players, especially in the defensive front.
In summary, I think the Hogs are close to where I thought they would be at this point in the season. I thought they would have a hard time in that early stretch of games that pitted them against Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn, and they did. But, they appear to be improving in many facets as we draw into the inviting part of the schedule. They must take care of business this week against a decent Troy State club that will give Arkansas' offense a tough challenge. The Trojans have been solid against the run and it won't be an easy day as far as lining up and whipping this independent.