November 14, 2017 7:21:28 AM
Trent Shadid is all over the Razorbacks for SEC Country and is a good Twitter follow for this week, @Shadid13. Thanks to Trent for his time.
1 - Serious question: How invested is the Arkansas fan base in this result, given the focus on the job status of coach Bret Bielema?
I get the sense most Arkansas fans remain invested in this game, but for varying reasons. There's still a small, and continually shrinking, portion of the fan base that believes in Bielema and is hoping for a turnaround under him. Those fans are hopeful for a pair of wins to close out the season and a bowl berth. A larger portion of the fan base is just ready to see this era come to an end. They'll be watching Saturday, but without any hope of a pulling off an upset. I think these feelings will be reflected in the crowd at Razorback Stadium. Those who show up and stay will be loud. However, the stadium will likely be far from full and should be quick to empty if the Bulldogs build a quick lead. These fans are just tried of what they're seeing, and who can blame them?
2 - The Razorbacks' defensive struggles: Is it a byproduct of the switch to a 3-4 front and the year most programs need to truly install it, or is there a more worthy place to put the blame?
I don't think it's as simple as blaming the switch the 3-4 scheme. To me, it comes down to the players. After all, Arkansas was also among the worst defenses in the country last season while in the 4-3 system the program had been running for years. The main issue from a season ago is the same: Too many big plays. In six SEC games, the Razorbacks have allowed 15 plays of at least 40 yards. That's the most allowed in the conference, which is exactly where they finished last season in that same category. Inside linebacker De'Jon Harris and defensive end McTelvin Agim are top-tier SEC talents. Other than those two, Arkansas' defense has far too many holes and a glaring lack of depth.
3 - I see Arkansas has been dealing with several injuries in the secondary, but MSU has yet to consistently connect on the deep ball. Have teams been testing the beat up Arkansas defensive backs deep or hitting them in underneath/intermediate throws, where MSU is likely to try?
Arkansas is forced to put its cornerbacks alone in man-to-man coverage nearly every snap. As a result, opponents have been challenging those corners with deep passes and having a lot of success in recent weeks. The Hogs often have to devote their safeties to run support and keep seven players in the box to have any chance at slowing down an opposing ground attack. That plan almost certainly will not change against the Bulldogs. I wouldn't be surprised if MSU is able to do just about whatever it wants in the passing game Saturday, assuming the receivers can win the one-on-one matchups.
4 - The other side of that: Even if you ignore the circumstances that created Alabama's game-winning drive, MSU has been gashed with intermediate passes at times this year. Does Arkansas have a wide receiver that can kill MSU in several different parts of the field like Calvin Ridley did?
The wide receivers haven't had many positive moments to speak of this season. The group has been especially poor on intermediate passes with no real standout like a Ridley. They were throughly dominated last week at LSU, giving Arkansas' quarterbacks little chance for success. A large portion of Arkansas' passing success has actually come as a result of screen passes. Offensive coordinator Dan Enos is among the best at designing and calling them each week. Slowing that down should be a top priority for the Bulldogs this week.
5 - Have your mentions recovered from when Bielema called you a knucklehead writer trying to pick a fight on his radio show a couple of weeks ago?
Haha! Not entirely. Most of the fans have had my back on that, though. That's when you know things are bad, right? When the fans actually back a writer over the coach. I've had a good time with it. I can't entirely deny being a knucklehead. But trying to pick a fight? Absolutely not. All jokes aside, I think we're just seeing a coach that knows the end is near and is having a really difficult time dealing with it. That's my guess as to what led him to say what he said regarding me.