Week 4 - Rutgers at Arkansas

Posted Sep 19, 2012

Week 4 CFN Fearless Prediction – Rutgers at Arkansas

Rutgers (3-0) at Arkansas (1-2) Sept. 22, 7:00, ESPNU

Here's The Deal: When this first-ever meeting between Rutgers and Arkansas was initially announced, it looked on paper like a mismatch. The Razorbacks were a surging national power, with an eye toward winning the SEC. The Scarlet Knights were attempting to remain afloat, their coach off to the NFL, and their league taking in significant water. To say that the situation has changed would be a gross understatement.

With the two programs headed in opposite directions, anything is possible in Fayetteville this week. Arkansas is mired in a free-fall, losing back-to-back games to Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama, the latter 52-0. Title hopes? Gone. Confidence? Obliterated. Star QB Tyler Wilson? Well, he hopes to return from a concussion this week. Their bar now lowered significantly, the Razorbacks will have their mettle tested over the next two months. Rutgers, on the other hand, is coming off an enormous win, a road upset of South Florida in front of a national TV audience. Suddenly cemented as a Big East contender, the Scarlet Knights are now being presented with an opportunity to capture one of the most important non-conference wins in their history.

Why Rutgers Might Win: The defense is playing at a very high level, which is no surprise in Piscataway. While no one is comparing the Scarlet Knights to ‘Bama, there are similarities to the D that just got done blanking Arkansas. Rutgers has allowed 25 points all year, aggressively stuffing the run, sticking close to receivers and forcing turnovers. Unrelenting and blue-collar, the unit is led by LB Khaseem Greene, who will revel at the chance to showcase his ability against a team from the country's best conference. Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones are active thieves on the back end, while DT Scott Vallone is a street fighter on the interior. No program has turned the ball over more than the Razorbacks this month, something Rutgers will feast upon in Fayetteville.

Why Arkansas Might Win: At long last, an offense the wretched Razorbacks D can handle. While the Scarlet Knights showed flashes in Tampa last week, they remain a suspect attack that couldn't produce more than 26 points on Tulane or Howard. The Hogs will play with considerable attitude in Week 4, collapsing to the ball with linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright. Rutgers is unlikely to stretch the field, leaning instead on the power running of improving Jawan Jamison. Arkansas easily has the best collection of offensive talent that the Knights have seen, and might see all year, especially if Wilson can get back to uncorking his strong right arm in the direction of WR Cobi Hamilton and TE Chris Gragg.

What To Watch Out For: RB Knile Davis has been a microcosm of Arkansas' rocky start—loads of expectations in the preseason that have gone unfulfilled to date. The breakout star of 2010 has only rushed for 191 yards and two scores on 54 carries, looking a little tentative, while missing the same support he got from his blockers two years ago. If the Hogs are going to regroup, beginning with this week's Rutgers game, they'll need to see a reemergence of the old Davis. When Wilson and Davis are playing to their potential, this remains a potent offensive attack capable of rallying the program out of the ditch.

What Will Happen: Fascinating game that'll be as much about the state of mind of both teams than the physical matchups. Arkansas remains ripe for the picking, a flawed team with a fragile psyche. However, Wilson is a difference-maker, provided he gets clearance to put a helmet back on. If he plays, he'll mine the small cracks in the Rutgers D, stretching the field to help free up Davis on the ground. If, however, the Brandons, Allen and Mitchell, are taking snaps on Saturday night, the Hogs will be in serious danger of falling to a scrappy and motivated bunch of Scarlet Knights.

CFN Prediction: Arkansas 28 … Rutgers 17
Line: Arkansas -7; O/U: 50
Must Watch Rating (5 – Ray Lewis: A Football Life, 1 – Frankenweenie): 3