Arkansas coach Mike Anderson recaps the Razorbacks' ...
Arkansas vs. Florida Preview
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen prepares to pass during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
The Hogs hit the road on Saturday for Bret Bielema’s first SEC road game, and it should be quite the experience for the new Arkansas coach. The Razorbacks will be traveling to the Swamp to take on Perennial Trendy Upset Pick, sometimes referred to as “Florida.”
The Gators have one of those teams that everyone looks at and thinks they’re not very good. They certainly are not pretty in how they play, but they are better than they look. Kirk Herbstreit fell into the Perennial Trendy Upset Pick trap in week one, picking Toledo to upset the Gators. It didn’t happen. Florida did fall in week two, 21-16 at Miami, but the Hurricanes may be a pretty good football team. CBS and ESPN fell into the trap in week three, mistakenly thinking that a clearly flawed Tennessee team would challenge the Gators in the Swamp. Finally, inexplicably, Kentucky became a popular pick to upset the Gators in Lexington last week.
Head Coach: Will Muschamp (21-9, 3rd season)
2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1 SEC)
2013 Record: 3-1 (2-0 SEC)
Offense: Multiple, Pro + Spread sets
The Florida offense is commanded by Brent Pease. Pease spent the 2006-2011 seasons at Boise State, serving as offensive coordinator in 2011 under Chris Petersen. As a Petersen disciple, Pease is dedicated to a truly “Multiple” offensive philosophy. He’s willing to use a variety of formations and mix dozens of offensive concepts from different philosophies to match the personnel he has. Pease loves motion and formation changes. Like Humphrey Bogart’s sense of fashion, Pease knows the “rules” of offensive football so well that he can break them and still be successful.
The criticism of the Boise State offense upon its arrival into the SEC was that a team lacking a grounded offensive philosophy would suffer from bad fundamentals, no defined recruiting specifics, and constant miscommunication. Unfortunately for the Gators, this has proven true. Quarterback Jeff Driskel ran an offense tailored to his talents: strong downhill running game, pro-style passing concepts, and spread running concepts. Florida has moved the ball each of its last two seasons, but the Gators have been plagued by critical turnovers, miscommunications, and turnovers, often at critical times. Florida has 10 turnovers (97th nationally), 7.75 penalties per game (108th nationally), and a red zone scoring rate of just .667 (111th nationally). Driskel was injured against Tennessee and is out for the season, and the jury is still out on new starter Tyler Murphy. Early results seem to indicate that while Murphy may not be as good as Driskel in terms of moving the football, he’s less likely to turn it over or have an offensive disaster like the Miami or 2012 Georgia games. Pease also appears to have simplified the offense to help Murphy out.
Defensively, the Gators run a strong 4-3 defense. Muschamp came to Florida after serving as Texas’ defensive coordinator through the 2011 season. If you want a primer on how good a defensive coach Muschamp is, take a look at the Horns’ defense since he left. The Gators are 2nd nationally in total defense, including 1st against the run and 6th against the pass. No team has fewer rushing attempts against them per game this season (22.0 attempts per game). The Gators get off the field quickly as well: they lead the NCAA with 38 minutes per game of possession.
Florida has started using some diamond formation in order to spark the running game that has been largely dormant until the Kentucky game. This is an unbalanced formation, with two tackles on the right side, and a tight end outside the guard there on the left. Florida rushed for 246 yards against the Wildcats, pushing their season average to 211.3 yards per game.
Here’s a 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE) spread Pistol formation that Florida can use for various passes, runs, and options. Here they’re running a power play very similar to the Hogs’ outside power.
Sticking with spread concepts, here’s a 10 personnel (4 WR, 1 RB, 0 TE) Shotgun play. The concept is “levels,” and this version of it has been borrowed from the Green Bay Packers. Bobby Petrino ran levels from sets with 2 WR on one side, but this is the trips version. Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne broke QB-WR records with this play. It’s generally thought of as a spread passing concept, but Pease has found a way to weave it into Florida’s offense.
One formation we’ve been seeing from the Hogs is the “bunch” formation, so let’s take a look at it. A bunch consists of three targets on one side, usually 2 WR and 1 TE, “bunched” together near the end of the line.
This is a “spot” concept. I mistakenly identified a similar play run against Southern Miss and said if I saw it again I would diagram it again. Here it is. The Packers use the spot, along with many other pro-style passing attacks. Hunter Henry on the corner route has the potential to be dangerous.
Due to the significance of this game, the Review article will have a much longer film study. I fully expect Chaney and the offense coaches to show just about everything they have not shown yet, so it should make for an entertaining (and enlightening) review, win or lose.
KEYS TO THE GAME
ARKANSAS MUST win first down, offensively and defensively. After struggling to do so against Rutgers, the Hog offense was much better against Texas A&M, but the defense really struggled to win first down. The Hogs averaged 6.9 yards per play on first down (3.1 against Rutgers) and had 7 of their 31 plays go for 10+ yards. The Razorbacks need to be averaging around 4.5 yards per play on first down, and surrendering less than 4.
FLORIDA MUST stop the Arkansas running game. The vertical passing threat Allen provides is going to make stopping the run more difficult, but Florida rarely stacks the box anyway. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Florida averages just 6.3 defenders in the box per play. The Gators won’t overload the box, so if the Hogs can make the necessary blocks they should be able to spring the running game. That’s easier said than done, even against a line missing star DT Dominique Easley.
ARKANSAS MUST get a big game from the linebackers. The linebacking corps hasn’t been up to snuff this season, and if they’re going to improve, Saturday would be a good time to do so. Florida’s one-two punch of Matt Jones and Mack Brown isn’t quite as potent as Collins and Williams, but they could erupt if the linebackers fail to fill gaps and miss tackles. Jones, the starter, missed a lot of time earlier in the year with an injury, but he had a career-high 176 yards last week against Kentucky. The linebackers are also going to be necessary to contain QB Tyler Murphy in the pocket, as he is less of a threat when he’s not scrambling.
FLORIDA MUST not turn the ball over. Florida can survive losing the turnover battle by one (-1 margin), but not more. The Gators gave it to Miami five times (-4 margin), and thus, despite outgaining them by 200 yards, lost the game. If Murphy continues Driskel’s tendency of critical turnovers and penalties, Florida could lose this game.
MATCHUP OF THE GAME is Arkansas’ offensive line vs. Florida’s defensive front. Florida DT Damien Jacobs called Travis Swanson “dirty” and the Hogs should hope he’s looking for excuses before the game even starts. Florida leads the NCAA in rush defense, and this will be one heck of a challenge for this line that got embarrassed by Rutgers. On Saturday, we find out if the Hog O-line is truly a work in progress, or if it had just one bad game.
If this game was at home, I could see the Hogs winning. But in the Swamp, against a defense like that? Hard to take the Hogs. It’s proving time for BOTH lines to show they are capable of changing a game in the Hogs’ favor. If Murphy flashes some Driskel with turnovers and penalties, all bets could be off.
Prediction: Florida 20, Arkansas 10
Adam Ford is a senior journalism major at the University of Arkansas and an intern for WholeHogSports