Not prime time yet, but Hogs, Commodores getting there

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, October 27, 2018
Arkansas coach Chad Morris talks during a game against Tulsa on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas coach Chad Morris talks during a game against Tulsa on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Bet before they ever started projecting the telecast times for the 2018 SEC football schedule that TV executives indelibly inked today's Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Vanderbilt Commodores game for 11 a.m.

Arkansas coming off a 1-7 SEC 2017 and a coaching change, and Vanderbilt being Vanderbilt, likely made today's kickoff at Reynolds Razorback Stadium an 11 a.m. SEC Network televised Not Ready for Primetime Players lock long before officials officially turned the key.

As the only teams 0-4 in SEC games, Arkansas bottoms the SEC West while Vanderbilt bottoms the SEC East below 0-3 Missouri. So they seem correctly TV slotted for today's game.

Perhaps, though, not as correctly as records indicate.

The SEC's top two tacklers rise from the bottom. None hail from any of the league's four nationally Top Ten teams headed by No. 1 Alabama.

For 3-5 Vanderbilt, senior middle linebacker Jordan Griffin leads the SEC with 86 tackles.

Junior middle linebacker De'Jon "Scoota" Harris tackles a close second, 82, for the 2-6 Razorbacks.

Of the SEC's top three backs for yards per carry, No. 1 and No. 3 respectively run for Vandy and Arkansas.

Vandy fourth-year junior Ke'Shawn Vaughn -- the former University of Illinois running back and a Nashville, Tenn., native who transferred last year to Vandy's Nashville campus -- leads the SEC averaging 6.88 yards per carry.

Arkansas third-year sophomore running back Rakeem Boyd -- originally a 2016 redshirted freshman at Texas A&M who last year transferred to Independence (Kan.) Junior College -- averages 6.69, third in the SEC.

Nobody claims new Arkansas Coach Chad Morris suddenly turns the Razorbacks that he inherited 4-8 from Bret Bielema into world-beaters.

But it's indisputable that after the nadir 44-17 Sept. 15 loss to North Texas that these Razorbacks have improved game by game.

Arkansas lost a 24-17 SEC close but no cigar against currently nationally No. 16 Texas A&M. The Razorbacks scored more on Alabama in their 65-31 loss than anyone this season has scored on Alabama.

Two weeks ago they led Ole Miss into the fourth quarter of a 37-33 SEC defeat in Little Rock then skunked Tulsa, 23-0 last Saturday in Fayetteville.

As the SEC's lone private school, Vandy seems inevitably football stereotyped as all brain and little brawn.

Former Vandy Coach James Franklin altered that image with successive 9-4 seasons, advancing him to head coach at traditional power Penn State.

Derek Mason, Franklin's successor, hasn't matched 9-4 but keeps the Commodores competitive. This season at Notre Dame, Vandy played the undefeated nationally No. 4 Fighting Irish to the wire in a 22-17 loss. Vandy led current No. 9 Florida by 18 before falling 37-27. Last Saturday without the then-injured but now presumed healthy running back Vaughn, Vandy played nationally No. 12 Kentucky to a 14-7 loss in Lexington, Ky.

They're not prime time yet, these Razorbacks and Commodores, yet both teams evolve weekly, approaching becoming the Closer to Prime Time Players.

Sports on 10/27/2018

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