August 14, 2009
I suspected as much when I threw out the Razorbacks as a potential foil to Florida's bid for the first perfect season in school history, and Tony Barnhart confirmed the meme this week in his list of the SEC's top "trap" games of the season:
1. Arkansas at Florida, Oct. 17: The Gators will be coming off a monster game at LSU the week before. If Florida wins the Gators will be 5-0 and still ranked No. 1. But they will also be pretty beat up after a very physical football game. If the game was in Fayetteville it would be extremely dangerous for Florida. But who thought Ole Miss was going to win The Swamp last year?
The comparison with Ole Miss is apt for four fairly obvious reasons:
• Last year, Florida was coming home for what looked like an easy date with the Rebels off its biggest road game of the season, at Tennessee, which followed a slugfest with Miami two weeks earlier; LSU loomed two weeks down the road. This year, Florida comes home to face what looks like an easy date with the Razorbacks off its biggest road game of the season, at LSU, which follows a potential slugfest with Tennessee two weeks earlier; Georgia looms two weeks down the road.
• Nobody thought much of Ole Miss after a last-place season, but the Rebels' talent should have been obvious: They returned four starting offensive linemen, a deep set of maturing receivers with a lot of catches to their name and eight starters on defense. Arkansas has more respect coming into '09, but still isn't looking at a big season after finishing in a tie for last place, despite returning three offensive linemen, a deep set of maturing receivers with a lot of catches to their name and nine starters on defense.
• Conspicuously, both teams have revamped offenses built around a big, hyped slinger who transferred from his original destination. Texas refugee Jevan Snead, an ace prospect in the class of 2006, surpassed all the clippings for Ole Miss, beginning with his two-touchdown effort in Gainesville. Ryan Mallett, perhaps the ace prospect in the class of 2007, will be more of a known commodity after games with Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn.
• Most importantly, Ole Miss was able to slow down Florida's running game and put pressure on Tebow, in large part from one of the best rushers in the SEC, Greg Hardy, who had two sacks and made the cover of Sports Illustrated on another hurry. Arkansas' defenses -- like Ole Miss' in '07 -- was horrible in every respect last year, but it can get after quarterbacks with Malcolm Sheppard, who with 7.5 sacks last year may be the best interior pass rusher in the country. I've maintained before and reiterate that the No. 1 issue -- other than creating turnovers -- is hitting Tebow. And nothing creates turnovers like a consistent pass rush, the one thing Arkansas' defense actually has going for it.
Obviously, Florida will be caught completely off-guard by all of this. It's a perfect trap, really. Trust us.