State of the Hogs: Oct. 17

Florida is a big favorite against Arkansas, but this is the right date for the Hogs to be making the trip to Gainesville.

Clearly, Oct. 17 is the best date in Arkansas football history. The only two times that Arkansas played the nation's No. 1 team on that date, the Hogs won.

There was the 1964 trip to Texas when No. 8 Arkansas used a 14-13 victory as the springboard to a national title and the 1981 Arkansas-Texas game, a 42-11 thumping of the Longhorns by unranked Arkansas.

There could have been a third Oct. 17 game against a No. 1 Texas. They were scheduled to play on that date in 1970, but ABC persuaded the two teams to move the game to the end of the year. The No. 1 Longhorns waltzed, 42-7, against the No. 4 Hogs.

Arkansas will be unranked for this Oct. 17 trip to No. 1 Florida. There is nothing to suggest that Florida should worry. When you play defense like the Gators, there should be a comfort zone no matter the date of the game.

The statistics stack up nicely for Florida. The Gators have the No. 1 rushing team in the SEC at 284 yards per game. The Hogs have the No. 9 rushing defense, allowing 145 per game.

Florida has the No. 1 rated pass efficiency offense. Arkansas is last in the SEC in passing yards allowed, 284 per game.

It would be nice if there was some bulletin board stuff aside from those numbers and that Oct. 17 thing. There isn't. There has been no prognostication from Tommy Tuberville, who picked Auburn by three touchdowns last week on an Alabama radio station. No one can talk Ron Zook, the last Florida coach, into picking the Gators.

It would be nicer if we could figure out if Florida boss Urban Meyer is going to abandon his conservative nature for this game. Perhaps a lack of great wide receivers has pushed Meyer to allow a great defense and a superb offensive line do most of the heavy lifting this season.

Maybe Meyer fears Bobby Petrino's offense and passer Ryan Mallett enough that he'll take more risks against an improving Arkansas defense. That could lead to some mistakes, the kind Arkansas feasted on against Auburn and Texas A&M.

The Gators do pass, but they aren't nearly as vertical with their throwing since flashy wideouts Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy left for the NFL. No, they prefer to hammer away with the running game, mostly with power running off of mis-direction action. It's that mis-direction that keeps defensive coordinators from locking down with blitzes.

"You can blitz," Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "But they need to be run blitzes. We have to make sure our players understand these are not pass blitzes."

The angles change. You are not trying to flash to a point where the quarterback might be setting up to pass. You are looking for a running back and that could be quarterback Tim Tebow. He's awesome at directing traffic in the fast-moving Gator backfield. And, as Dudley Dawson wrote in Hawgs Illustrated, he's so good that Superman wears Tebow pajamas.

It would be a massive mistake to look at the misdirection and various formations and determine that the Gators are a finesse offense.

"They are a power running team," Jake Bequette said of the Gators. "That's what they've been and that's what we are going to get.

"They spread you and they move people and try to get you thinking that something is going away from you with motion and fakes," Bequette said. "Then, it's right at you, physical and strong. You look at the linemen in their stances. They are leaning forward. They are coming right at you. That's what Coach (Urban) Meyer believes in and that's what they do.

"The thought is that you have to be physical. You have to meet them. The movement they give you probably is designed to freeze you and make you think about where the ball is going. If that happens and you freeze, then they are on top of you (with blockers). So you have to go attack them. You have to meet their physical blocks."

What does he remember from playing Tebow last year in Fayetteville?

"He's big, fast and very elusive," Bequette said. "Quarterbacks are usually not elusive. He can make you miss in space. That's not something you see a lot of.

"We played two like that last year, Tebow and Colt McCoy. Both were a lot alike. McCoy was a little more accurate as a passer, but Tebow was a good passer, too, very good."

Did he find himself watching Tebow, trying to see what all the hype was about.

"You know, he's a great player," Bequette said. "But you don't do that during a game. You can't. You have to play your man.

"What I remember is that he was very good at managing the game. He doesn't put his team in bad situations. He made good decisions. You hear about his leadership skills, but we didn't hear him talk much. He said hardly anything, just call the plays, run their stuff. I'm sure that part, the leadership stuff happens on the sideline. "You don't get to focus on him because of all of their weapons. You are aware of him and you try to be there if he becomes a runner, but that's difficult to do. They are just good everywhere and very physical. The physical part is where your focus needs to be."

There will be physical play outside the trenches. Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes gets great billing, but the strength of that defense might be cornerbacks Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins. They "squat" and make physical contact with the wideouts down the field, then have the quickness to stay with them. They are awesome players.

Arkansas wide receivers Greg Childs, London Crawford and Lucas Miller relish contact. There should be some wonderful battles on the perimeter.

"They are going to try to be physical and hit hard, and that's what we are going to be as wide receivers," Crawford said. "To be honest, the ones that win that battle are probably going to win the game."

I like karma. I love history. But I love physical play more.

That was the good news the last two weekends when Arkansas whipped both Texas A&M and Auburn in the trenches, and on the perimeter with their wideouts and tight ends.

If they do that against this proud Florida defense, the Razorbacks have a chance to stand atop the college football mountaintop for a third time on Oct. 17.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories