Arkansas football: A Week 10 win over Tennessee would go a long way

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - OCTOBER 31: Feleipe Franks #13 of the Arkansas Razorbacks throws a pass in the second quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on October 31, 2020 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - OCTOBER 31: Feleipe Franks #13 of the Arkansas Razorbacks throws a pass in the second quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on October 31, 2020 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Arkansas football under Sam Pittman takes on Jeremy Pruitt and the Tennessee Volunteers in a game to decide the rest of their seasons.

Who wants it more? We are now at the midpoint of 2020 season in the SEC, and Arkansas and Tennessee find themselves both at 2-3 and hungry for a win.

At this point, both sides have a good feel for where they stand in the conference, and now their main goal will be trying to finish in the top half of their respective divisions.

After surpassing almost all expectations early in the season under Sam Pittman, the Razorbacks were humbled last week after simply running into a team that was better than them as they lost to Texas A&M, 42-31.

While the final statistics between the two teams were close, the game itself was not. The Aggies were a bad matchup for Arkansas compared to their previous opponents as they presented a more balanced attack with more skilled players. As well as the Razorback defense had played up to this point, they struggled against the Aggie offense.

Despite some questions, quarterback Kellen Mond played great, finishing 21-for-26 with 260 yards and three touchdowns. He was rarely bothered on the night, and the Aggies often sent multiple players deep where Mond was able to find holes in the secondary.

That said, there was some good news for the Hogs. For the first time all season, the ground game finally got going as the Razorbacks rushed for 222 total yards. A seemingly healthy Rakeem Boyd led the attack with 100 yards, and surprisingly, quarterback Feleipe Franks contributed with 91 yards himself.

With the run established, Franks was able to command the offense in one of his best games so far, finishing 23-for-31 with 239 yards and three scores.

Feleipe Franks is quietly one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC this season and has often shown the composure and play-making ability of a field general when he is given time to operate behind the line of scrimmage. His decision-making along with his size and arm could even result in some attention by NFL scouts by the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Tennessee is coming off a much-needed bye week after losing their last three games to Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama.

In their most recent game, the Volunteers received another annual beatdown by the Tide, losing 48-17 to their rivals.

Tennessee was simply overmatched on defense, and the offense struggled once again. The running back combination of Eric Gray and Ty Chandler had under 100 total rushing yards. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was able to hit a couple of deep passes for touchdowns, but other than that, he finished 13-for-24 with only 162 yards.

Given the expectations for the program, Vol fans have been frustrated with Guarantano for years. However, despite some inconsistent performances, this was a typical, albeit limited, game for the senior. He did not play great, but he took care of the ball and made a few big throws.

Perhaps more concerning was the conservative play-calling by the coaching staff that seems to indicate a lack of trust in Guarantano despite continually choosing to start him. Notably, while trailing towards the end of the first half in addition to a few long third downs throughout the game, Tennessee chose to run the ball instead, which elicited a smattering of boos from the reduced capacity crowd at Neyland Stadium.

Also, when Guarantano did throw, his receivers often ran safe, yet predictable routes, such as slants or curls that Alabama often anticipated for minimal gains at best.

Date: Saturday, Nov. 7
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Fayetteville, Ark.
Venue: Razorback Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Live Stream: WatchESPN 

Keys to Victory

Unsurprisingly, the two best offensive performances for Arkansas this season have been when either Rakeem Boyd or his backup, Trelon Smith have made an impact. While the offensive line has not been great, noticeably with pass protection, it might be close to rounding a corner when it comes to the run game.

Most importantly, this helps the Hogs stay on schedule on offense, which keeps the pressure off of Franks to make big plays on third-and-long and allows the defense to rest by staying off the field.

Meanwhile, sophomore Treylon Burks has become arguably the best player on offense for the Hogs after catching two more touchdowns last week. His speed and skill make him one of the best receivers for the Razorbacks in the last decade. He is a game-breaker, and the Volunteers need to put their best corner on him.

On offense for Tennessee, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney needs to take the leash off of Guarantano or find someone else who can push the ball downfield. Sure, he can hit the deep throws, but what about the intermediate 10-20 yard passes? Texas A&M demonstrated that Arkansas’ secondary is vulnerable when not dropping eight like in previous victories against Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

While running the ball is Tennessee’s strength, they cannot afford to be one dimensional because Arkansas is capable of scoring enough points that could require them to keep up.

Also, Arkansas might be a little stronger up the middle than most would expect, so if the Vols can move the line of scrimmage, use counters, and block the edge like the Aggies, they should find success.

For Arkansas on defense, the key is to just keep everything in front of them. Josh Palmer has been the one deep threat for Tennessee, but speedy freshman Jalin Hyatt might be emerging at the right time for Tennessee after a good game a couple of weeks ago. Tennessee has struggled on third downs, so the Razorbacks should try to make them earn every yard.

Betting Odds

Courtesy of The Action Network

Line: Tennessee -1
Over/Under: 52.5


On paper, this game looks like a toss-up as both sides are desperate for a win. However, I believe the Arkansas football team is slightly better. In addition, the turnover battle this season has usually favored the Hogs and has hurt the Vols, so if that holds, the score could not be as close as the experts think.

Final Score: Arkansas 31, Tennessee 21

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