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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Know your foe: Week 14, Arkansas

The Razorbacks should have one of the best rushing duos in the SEC.

2013 Record: 3-9 (0-8)

Series History: 3-2 (MIZZ)

Last Meeting: Missouri won 38-7 (2007)

Players to Watch: Arkansas running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins

2014 Projection: 3-9 (0-8)

Due to some scheduling changes, the Arkansas Razorbacks and Missouri Tigers have been paired together as new cross-division rivals starting this season.

The schools are separated by 300 miles, making them the closest conference opponents for one another in the Southeastern Conference’s most remote corner.

While traveling to Fayetteville will be the easiest conference-game commute for most Mizzou supporters in coming seasons, Tiger fans have a reason to be excited for this year’s contest at Faurot Field: Arkansas is awful.

The past several seasons in Fayetteville have been disappointing for Arkansas fans. After a Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State at season’s end in 2011 and a Sugar Bowl appearance the year before, the Razorbacks appeared to be rising to national prominence, until everything came crashing down.

On April 1, 2012, then-head coach Bobby Petrino crashed his motorcycle with his mistress, a football team assistant, riding along. Petrino was fired by the university 10 days after the incident and the program began to circle the drain.

The Razorbacks entered 2012 as a unanimous Top 10 team in every major poll. The team enters 2014 having won seven games in the past two years.

Just three years ago, Arkansas was ranked number three in the BCS behind only Louisiana State and Alabama heading into the final week of the regular season and a date with LSU in Baton Rouge. Since then, the Razorbacks have racked up a 0-9 record against the Top 25, including a 0-6 showing just last season.

Since Missouri entered the SEC in 2012, the Hogs have only managed to win two conference games over Auburn and Kentucky — both in 2012.

Arkansas’s fortunes do not look much brighter in 2014, with only nine starters returning from a group that could not even manage a single conference win.

Junior running back Jonathan Williams and his sophomore partner Alex Collins may be the only two reasons to be excited for pigskin this fall in Fayetteville. The two-headed attack out of the backfield was effective in 2013, as Williams and Collins combined for 1,924 yards on the ground. That kind of rushing productivity is what second year head coach Bret Bielema used for success at Wisconsin.

However, there are two major hurdles for the duo to maneuver past. First, the two running backs combined for just eight touchdowns last season, and that has to change if the Razorbacks have any hope of staying in games with a porous and inexperienced defense backing them up.

But even if Williams and Collins boost their productivity and carry the squad, it still might not be enough. Arkansas is just so bad in every other area of play that it could possess the SEC’s number one rushing attack and still fail to win a conference game.

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