By: Eric Finelli
This week, Rutgers travels to Razorback Stadium to take on Arkansas. Arkansas’s fall from grace has been well documented. Starting the season ranked #10 and ascending to #8 by the end of week one, Arkansas seemed prime to make a run for the SEC title this season. That was, however, before quarterback Tyler Wilson got sidelined during the second game of the season with a head injury. Since then, it has been all downhill for the Razorbacks. They managed to blow a significant lead against FCS opponent Louisiana-Monroe, and lost in overtime in an upset of epic proportions. They fell out of the Top 25 after that week, which marked the second largest fall in rankings history. The next week, Arkansas got absolutely torched by Alabama 52-0. They looked downright awful on offense (as most teams do against Alabama) and could barely slow down the Tide on defense. Arkansas is in shambles right now.
This is good news for Rutgers. Rutgers is coming off a convincing win over USF, where their defense dominated and the rushing attack sealed the game. I expect much of the same this week. Nova looked improved against USF, but he still made a few bad decisions that almost resulted in turnovers. I have to give credit where it’s due though, as Nova made some crucial plays on third down that kept drives alive. Nova managed the game well, and for that I give him the Trent Dilfer Player of the Week Award. It’s going to be a lot tougher for him this week, but if he can avoid mistakes, I think Rutgers has a shot at winning this game.
The bottom line is this: If Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson is able to return for this game, Arkansas wins. If he doesn’t, Rutgers can pull off the victory. This may sound ludicrous, but I don’t think Rutgers’ defense is that far removed from an Alabama defense that forced five turnovers against the Razorbacks last week. Alabama is clearly the better defense, but I would objectively say that the Rutgers D is within a few tiers of the Crimson Tide. I expect a lot of handoffs this weekend, as Jawan Jamison showed he is more than capable of handling a heavy workload (41 carries last week). My biggest fear for this game is that Arkansas gets off to a hot start, and puts Rutgers in a hole early. An early hole equates to more Gary Nova throws, and no Rutgers fan would be glad to see the team get pass happy.
Predictions: If Wilson plays: 35-13 Arkansas
If Wilson sits: 24-20 Rutgers