Arkansas’ unbeaten start came to an end against the Razorbacks’ first real test of the Bret Bielema era. In surrendering 21 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters, Arkansas showed its youthful inexperience and vulnerability heading into the SEC season.
Conversely, Rutgers has a springboard into American Athletic competition that bolsters not only the Scarlet Knights going forward, but the BCS aspirations of two RU opponents.
The American now has two victories against SEC competition. Rutgers’ defeat of Arkansas and Louisville’s win over Kentucky could prove to be inconsequential — bear in mind that both teams finished near and at the bottom of their respective divisions a season ago and are breaking in first-year coaches.
Still, the residual bump from the SEC’s overall strength boosts Rutgers’ computer value, which in turn benefits the BCS aspirations of both Louisville and Fresno State. The Bulldogs’ season opening defeat of the Scarlet Knights has added juice now.
The most frequent criticism of the Cardinals’ championship bona fides is the perceived weakness of the American league slate. There is certainly validity to that criticism, too. Cincinnati has failed to impress early on, and other future Louisville opponents USF and Connecticut have been downright atrocious.
But for the second straight week, a Cardinal conference counterpart scored an impressive out-of-league win. UCF’s defeat of Penn State in Week 3 was big for the Knights.
Of course, Kyle Flood’s team has designs on winning the conference title outright to earn the program’s first BCS invitation before embarking on its Big Ten membership. Rutgers’ win over Arkansas is about Rutgers, first and foremost.
Quarterback Gary Nova was tremendous down the stretch, much like in the Week 1 loss at Fresno State. But unlike that defeat, his defense rose to the challenge of countering big offensive drives with critical stops. After giving up two quick touchdowns in the early third quarter — including one in which Arkansas started at the RU 21-yard line because of a turnover — the Scarlet Knights shut down the Razorbacks.
Arkansas was forced into six consecutive punts, including three different three-and-outs. The Hogs gained just 283 yards and was held to three per carry on the ground. Running back Alex Collins was held below the century mark for the first time in his young career.
Rutgers failed to establish the rush itself against a stout Razorback front line, but didn’t need to with Nova throwing for 346 yards to six different receivers. No receiver was more important than Leonte Carroo, though, who was on the scoring end of each of Nova’s decisive strikes.
Carroo has quietly asserted himself as one of the top targets in college football. He made three touchdowns grabs in Week 1.
With the defense reestablishing itself and the suddenly potent passing game, Rutgers is a threat to Louisville in the American. There will likely be no bigger Scarlet Knight fans outside of Piscataway than the people of the San Joaquin Valley.