"Their receivers are getting better every week. They have a collection of running backs that can hurt you. We have a lot of respect for their running game."
In truth, Richt's concern with the Hogs is justified based on Arkansas' improvement last week.
Although Arkansas is the worst team in the country on the offensive side of the ball, the Hogs showed drastic improvement against Alabama. In the two games before the Bama game (UNLV and Tennessee) the Hogs managed only 206 total yards in offense. But against Alabama, Arkansas' offensive improved by over 100 yards, making the Hogs nearly 33% better on offense when compared to their previous games. The improvement raised Arkansas' offensive average up from 103 yards of total offense per game to over 173 yards per game.
Was the jump in yardage due to better Arkansas offense, a weaker defense, or just plain good weather?
Arkansas rotated four quarterbacks in their first game against UNLV which resulted in very poor numbers statistically. Also the running game was non –existent against the Rebels. Perhaps first game jitters created poor play on the Hogs part.
In the next game, the Hogs faced Tennessee, the number one ranked defense in the SEC. On top of facing the number one defense in the conference the Hogs also had to deal with Mother Nature. A driving rainstorm postponed the start of the Tennessee game for nearly 15 minutes. The rain never let up and the Hog's offense was terrible. They actually had negative yards in the second half.
But last week at Alabama, the Hogs faced the 9th best defense in the conference. Arkansas used a plethora of tailbacks to gain their highest run total of the young season. But for the most past Sophomore Brandon Holmes carried the load. His team-high 81 yards is the most for an Arkansas running back this year.
What is the explanation for the improvement in the Arkansas offense's yard production? It is most certainly not the offensive line. Arkansas has recently made changes in its offensive line. It now has three players, senior Kenny Sandlin, sophomore Mark Bokermann, and freshman Shawn Andrews that are playing either out of position or are new to the starting lineup. Those changes showed against Bama. The Hog's line allowed 7 sacks to Alabama last Saturday.
The improved Arkansas offense is probably as a result of several different variables.
1. Good weather – Arkansas could not possibly move the ball in the pouring rain against a very good Tennessee defense. Tennessee's offense couldn't even move the pigskin in the rain.
2. Playing a average/poor defense – Alabama's defense is not what it used to be. With that said, Arkansas made use of its newfound passing attack by making Bama honor the pass. Richard Smith (8) and George Wilson (7) combined for 15 catches against Alabama This opened up more of an opportunity for the Hogs to run.
3. Having time to prepare for Alabama – The Hogs were supposed to play the week before against North Texas. But because of the strikes against America, Arkansas was able to direct its football focus on Bama exclusively.
Arkansas probably will not show the same type of improvement from last week to this week like they did between the Tennessee and Bama games. Georgia has a much better defensive unit than the Tide. Arkansas is gong to have to deal with Georgia's blitzes and stunts, something that they struggled with against Bama. But Richt will continue to worry about the Hogs no matter what, and to me that is not such a bad thing.