Devil's Advocate

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of point/counterpoint — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart take opposite sides of the field to make their case for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.



How does Florida beat Arkansas in Saturday night's SEC Championship Game? Let me count the ways:

1. The Razorbacks have no passing attack. Casey Dick completed just 3 of 17 attempts in last weekend's loss to LSU.

2. Dick's putrid showing against the Tigers has many Hog fans clamoring for freshman backup QB Mitch Mustain. As Tennessee fans learned in 2005, a quarterback controversy can be incredibly divisive and destructive.

3. The "wildcat package" that features Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden taking a direct shotgun snap won't produce the huge gains against Florida that it did against most foes. Tim Tebow runs the same package in practice every single day, so the Gators are familiar with how to run it and how to stop it.

4. Florida's greatest strength, rushing defense, corresponds with Arkansas's greatest strength, rushing offense. The Gators allow just 72 rushing yards per game, lowest total in the SEC. They shut down LSU, the SEC's second-best rushing offense, in a 23-10 victory on Oct. 7 ... and LSU's passing attack is light-years ahead of Arkansas's.

5. Florida's greatest weakness, pass defense, matches up with Arkansas's greatest weakness, pass offense. Thus, the Razorbacks lack the tools to exploit the Gators where they are most vulnerable.

6. Arkansas's ultra-aggressive defensive backs won't intimidate Florida's receivers, who are a physically imposing bunch in their own right.

7. The Gators are cool in the clutch, going 5-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They beat Tennessee and South Carolina by a point each, Vanderbilt by six, Georgia and Florida State by seven each. Conversely, Arkansas is coming off a five-point loss to LSU.

8. In addition to being very talented, the 2006 Gators are proving to be very lucky this fall. That's a deadly combination, one that allowed them to win 11 of 12 games to date, and one that will allow them to win again Saturday night.



"Beware the Under-Hogs" should have served as the SEC's slogan this fall, given that an Arkansas team coming off consecutive losing seasons, and picked in the middle of the West Division six-pack, ran off 10 straight victories en route to the Georgia Dome and Saturday's championship showdown against Florida.

There was nothing surprising about the Razorbacks' formula for success. A power running game, strong defense and topflight special teams play is a tried-and-true recipe for victory, especially in the SEC.

It was good enough to power the Road Hogs to a 4-0 SEC record on trips outside the Natural State. Included in that spotless compilation was a thumping of the Tigers in Auburn, as well as, quality victories at South Carolina and at Mississippi State along with a close call in Nashville over Vanderbilt.

The week after their Music City victory, the Hogs were spared defeat at home against Alabama when the Crimson Tide's kicking game went lame and Arkansas prevailed in overtime. Of course, the Razorbacks were routed in their season opener in Fayetteville against USC, but Darren McFadden was limited with a foot injury and the Hogs lost five fumbles.

Since that embarrassing 50-14 setback, Arkansas has steadily improved, peaking with a dominating 31-14 win over Tennessee. Even the loss to LSU last week showcased the SEC's best running game and a player in McFadden, who is probably the best offensive talent in college football.

That was an excellent LSU defense McFadden ripped for 182 yards. In fact it was giving up only 72.1 yards per game before crossing paths with the Mac the Knife. It was also an outstanding O-line that was driving the Tigers off the ball. But McFadden is a talent capable of transforming an offensive line with his ability to turn a crease into dash.

Unfortunately, 26 points wasn't enough to beat an LSU team led by another force of nation — LaMarcus Russell, who can beat a team with his arm, legs, size and strength. If you could combine the best of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow together in one signal caller and you still wouldn't have a Russell.

When you chart Florida's season you find a team that burst out of the gates with impressive wins over Southern Mississippi, Central Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and LSU. Then the Gators traveled to Auburn, absorbed a 27-17 loss and haven't been the same since. Florida comes into this contest with narrow decisions over Georgia, 21-14, Vanderbilt 25-19, South Carolina 17-16, and Florida State 21-14.

You might say the Gators are adept at winning close games. Or you might say they're lucky to come away from those contests unscathed.

What is clear is that Florida's "B" game isn't good enough to beat Auburn much less Arkansas. And the Gators haven't seen their "A" game since an Oct. 7 victory over LSU.

One final point: Florida's chances depend on (1) stopping McFadden and (2) Chris Leak having an exceptional performance in the biggest game of his life.

That's why I'm high on the Hogs.

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