GAMEDAY: Vettel - Arkansas is better than expected

When the season began, Arkansas really wasn't on anybody's radar. The Razorbacks had lost 18 starters from last year's nine-win team, including TEN on offense and most project them fourth or worse in the SEC Western Division. But a funny thing happened on the way to mediocrity. Arkansas replaced those departed starters with faster players. They played Texas down to the wire and pulled away from Alabama in the 4th quarter. Saturday they take aim on a national ranking when they visit the Swamp.

Matt Jones is the kind of guy you hate to play against. While he is not a particularly good passer, he is a superb athlete and a playmaker. He's the reason why the Hogs have 25 plays of 20 yards or more after just four games. He is also one of three Razorbacks averaging over 50 yards a game on the ground. They also involve the fullback in the offense so Florida will have to respect that. Peyton Willis gets six carries a game and catches two passes an outing. He caught a wheel route pass for a TD against Bama and has five rushing TDs as well.

Arkansas has six different receivers averaging more than 20 yards per receptions, documenting their big play ability. Steven Harris, who is from Miami, is the # 1 guy and they have a freshman, Marcus Monk who is in the 6'5" range and has three touchdowns among his seven catches. They'll have some big plays, but Gators need to keep it to two or three.

HOGS "D" CAN BE HAD

Alabama ran all over Arkansas despite a very poor passing attack. Texas had a ton on the ground as well, and they don't throw it all that well either. The Gators should be able to do both very effectively, but obviously they have to do better cashing in the scoring chances.

Jeb Huckeba (pronounced Huckaby for some reason) is their best player… He offers good size and speed at Defensive End, has a couple of sacks and several tackles for losses. Their LB play against Alabama was dreadful. They have a couple of DB I like, Safety Lerinezo Robinson # 21 and Corner Michael Coe # 19.

SPECIAL TEAMS ALERT!

Arkansas has blocked three kicks this year, two of them punts. Florida has not had anyone come after Eric Wilbur this year, but they're about to. One of the most important aspects of this game is that Florida is ready to protect Wilbur to the max. Anything less could result in a game-changing play.

BOTTOM LINE

I think Arkansas is just as good as Tennessee and the Gators have to play very well to get a win. It'll be pretty hot and humid, and Arkansas is so physical, the Gators need to play a lot of guys, and need to play from ahead. Under Houston Nutt Arkansas is a very good second half team. (39-and-4 when leading at halftime)

IF there is no blocked kick, Florida wins 31-30. If there is, turn it around.

AWESOME DAY IN THE SEC

Can you believe the games this weekend? LSU/Georgia, Tennessee/Auburn, Alabama/South Carolina in addition to the Gators and Hogs… wow!

LSU and Georgia should be a low scoring game with two of the league's best defenses facing two offenses having their problems. Senior Marcus Randall and freshman JaMarcus Russell will try and prove they can make it happen against good competition while Georgia hopes the return of scintillating freshman Danny Ware will light a fire under their underachieving offense. To me the key is the Georgia offensive line, which has to prove its improvement is for real. My guess is they do, 20-16.

Tennessee is another group trying to show it's for real. The Vols will face a solid Auburn defense and strong running attack. Jason Campbell made clutch pays to beat LSU, but I just don't trust the guy. Sticking with home teams winning close games, Vols 27-21.

South Carolina and Alabama are both three-and-one, but I don't expect either team to win eight games. Obviously the winner of this one has a much better chance of proving me wrong. I hate to pick all four home teams to win these match ups… so I won't. Granny Clampett wins 9-7.

TWO FROM THE E-MAIL BAG

Gary writes, "Can you discuss your thoughts on our true freshmen this year and which ones look special?"

Keep in mind, Gary, I have not seen a practice since they closed up three or four hurricanes ago. To that point I thought Florida's most impressive freshmen were LB Brandon Siler, S Kyle Jackson. S Tony Joiner, WR Michael McIntosh, RB Markus Manson and DE Derrick Harvey.

I believe Michael Brown, all four O-linemen, Javier Estopinan and Dawayne Grace will be on the two-deep and make significant contributions in 2005. Dane Guthrie could emerge before the end of the season since Florida TEs have yet to make a catch.

No1gatorjim writes, "It might have been nice to see Gavin Dickey in the fourth quarter."

I agree. I have often preached about the need to develop depth by offering playing time whenever and wherever possible. The biggest negative with winning close games and never putting opponents away is that it reduces the chances to do that. However, when Florida got the ball up 20 - 3 with less than three minutes to play, Gavin should have gotten in there.

Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: vettel@gatorcountry.com .

Finally, I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.


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