VTM: So for those who don't know the recent history of Arkansas, it's been kind of a meteoric rise to the type of program you have now. In 2013, Arkansas goes 3-9, losing 9 straight conference games to close the season. In 2014, opening loss to Auburn made it 10 straight losses to conference/Power 5 teams. Then the Tech game. It was kind of a coming out party for Arkansas was it not? You go on to a 7-6 season, culminating in a blow win over Texas in a bowl game, but what's missing in that record is 5 of those losses were by less than 7 points. What made for such a quick turn around both offensively and defensively?
AF: Offensively, it was the recruitment and development of better players. It all seemed to click a little more in year two and they were able to run the ball (ironic since they've struggled to so far this season). On defense, I give almost all the credit to bringing in Robb Smith as defensive coordinator. He took practically the exact same players as Chris Ash did in year one, and make them one of the better defenses in the country. I think he is probably the most underrated defensive coordinator in the nation.
VTM: And so you come into this season ranked #18 the first two weeks. From an outsiders perspective, Arkansas very much looks like Texas Tech a year ago. Coming off a big blowout bowl win, a lot of hype going into the next season and then kind of struggling right off the bat. No one needs to tell Arkansas how shocking the Toledo game was. What went wrong in that game? Was it a case of looking ahead to Tech or something else?
AF: Everything went wrong. Two major special teams blunders. Red zone interception. Couldn't run the football. Massive amounts of penalties. We couldn't believe it. They acted like they didn't want to be there. As complex as it may seem, it was really simple. Toledo was the better team on Saturday.
VTM: Brandon Allen had a big game with over 400 yards passing, but Alex Collins was held to just 54 yards, just 2.7 yards a carry. What did Toledo do schematically that frustrated your running game so much?
AF: I don't think it was as much as what Toledo did as it was what Arkansas was doing schematically. They've started trying to pull 330 lbs offensive guards on run plays and it just doesn't work. They can't get to their blocks quick enough and there is nothing Collins can really do. Granted, Collins has not rush particularly well against good competition. So give Toledo credit for not being a scrub, because Collins runs all over scrubs.
VTM: To be fair, it's not like Toledo stopped Arkansas and it's not like Arkansas' D wasn't good either, winning the total yardage vs Toledo 515 to 318. Had 5 trips into the red zone, but only came away with 3 points. What kept Arkansas from scoring once they were in the red zone?
AF: Their inability to run the ball and Brandon Allen had six over throws in the red zone. It was just a complete circus. I would say something politically correct about Toledo stopping them, but Arkansas stopped themselves on Saturday. They had open men, they had open holes, and they didn't make plays. That's what was so frustrating.
VTM: Who is the player(s) to watch for the game this weekend?
AF: I'd say Arkansas' offensive line. Let's see if they keep doing this crazy pull the guard crap that hasn't worked and goes back to man on man blocking.
VTM: What are your keys to the game?
Arkansas' ability to run the ball and Arkansas' ability to stop Texas Tech on third down. They struggled with both against Toledo.
VTM: Tech gets the upset if?
AF: Arkansas is still an 11.5 favorite. Vegas clearly thinks that the Toledo game was some what of a fluke. I'll say Texas Tech wins the game if Arkansas shoots themselves in both feet like they did against Toledo. I think man for man Arkansas is the better team, just like they are better man for man against Toledo. But, they can't beat themselves like they did this past week.
VTM: Where do you recommend Tech fans go for the best eats and drink in Fayetteville?
VTM: Finally what's your prediction for the game?
AF: 31-30 Arkansas