Coming off of their first shut out since 2014 when they had two straight against LSU and Ole Miss, Arkansas (2-6, 0-4) eyes their first conference win of the year as they square off in Fayetteville against the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-5, 0-4). Though they have an uphill battle, the Hogs still have plenty to play for as a bowl game is still a possibility in a season where most felt that was impossible.
One of the big stories coming into this game is the return of quarterback Ty Storey. QB play has been inconsistent this season for the Hogs, but Storey has separated himself as the unquestioned leader of this team and his absence was felt in a big way against Tulsa. In games against quality opponents Texas A&M, Alabama, and Ole Miss Storey helped the offense average 31 points per game. The coaching staff hopes that he can continue to build off of that progress and get another win under their belt heading into the bye week. The week off could not come soon enough as there have been a number of injuries up to this point, headlined by Rakeem “The Dream” Boyd who has been a solid running back in his first season on The Hill. Boyd was hurt after a monster first quarter against Ole Miss and even though he returned against Tulsa, he was unable to finish the game due to dehydration. The Hogs will rely on him to have a major impact moving forward as well as another strong performance from the defense, who rebounded in a big way last week after giving up 102 combined points to Alabama and Ole Miss, respectively.
With both teams fighting for their postseason lives, the Hogs can expect a big time battle with the Commodores. Their head coach Derek Mason is known for his defensive mind and you better believe he is going to bring everything he has at the banged up Razorback offense. Both teams are near the bottom of the pack in terms of SEC total defense, but you can throw out stats in a game with so much on the line as this one offers. On the flip side, Arkansas Defensive Coordinator John Chavis was very pleased with the efforts of his players and he expects even more progress as they go back to conference play.
Offensively, the Commodores are led by veteran QB Kyle Shurmur, RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and WR Kalija Lipscomb (2nd in SEC for receptions). Like Arkansas, they have been inconsistent on offense but have had their bright moments. On both sides of the ball these two squads look pretty similar statistically but the obvious point as previously mentioned is they are both running out of time to make a final push for a bowl game. For Arkansas it is a one game season from here on out. For Vandy they have little room for error as they can only lose one more game before their postseason dreams are crushed. There is nothing that makes a team more dangerous than having your backs against the wall and both of them are in that spot. Expect a very physical game that I predict the Hogs will come out victorious 28-24.