The clock keeps ticking inexorably toward 2:20 tomorrow afternoon, and the looming realization that the Long Winter is upon us is starting to settle in like morning fog. One sign of the apocalypse: our final Q&A session of the season. We traded jabs with our friends over at Arkansas Fight in preparation for tomorrow's Liberty Bowl. Luke chatted with their managing editor, the excellent Doc Harper, in this week's Bring on the Podcast, while Jon traded traditional Q&As with Ryan Higgins. You can find Jon's answers to Ryan at their site, as per usual. Meanwhile, Ryan's insights on the Razorbacks begin right here.
Jon: After all the chaos surrounding Bobby Petrino's departure and the disastrous interim tenure of the infamous Johnelle, Bret Bielema has at least provided some stability to the program. But Petrino is still looming in the rear-view, and I see Bielema catching a lot of grief from the Arkansas fanbase on social media. Then again, Hog fans aren't known for calm and reasoned analysis on Twitter, right? So where's Bret sitting in Fayetteville now? How comfortable are you with him?
Ryan:With Bielema, it's about piecing a whole season together now. He went 4-0 out of conference last year, but only went 2-6 in SEC. Everyone knows the story about the slow start this year, but won five games in an above average SEC Division. It's more annoying than anything, not being able to put it all together. He's definitely a good coach and a fairly likable guy. He talks a little too much after losses for some people's taste, but that is his style.
Jon: How do you guys feel about playing in Memphis? Do you feel like it's almost a home game?
Ryan:It's so easy for Arkansas fans to get there. I would be shocked if it wasn't at least 60-40 Hog fans, but probably closer to 70-30. I know a lot of Hog fans wanted to play in Nashville against Petrino and Louisville, but the simple fact is that game was in the middle of a work week for a majority of people. The Liberty Bowl was much easier for the masses of Hog fans to attend.
Jon: We know about Brandon Allen, Alex Collins, and Hunter Henry. What should we really know about the Arkansas offense, though? How does it flow and what makes it work?
Ryan:The receivers have really stepped up this year. Drew Morgan leads the SEC in TD catches. That's something no one expected. Sabastian Tretola is one of the best offensive lineman in the country and has been a force to run behind his entire career. Those are probably the guys who other fan bases may not know about going into a game against the Hogs.
Jon: The Hog defense, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery. Arkansas had good efforts against Toledo and LSU, but then there were all those other games. What are the issues there, what AREN'T issues, and how can K-State attack the Hogs effectively?
Ryan:I'm really glad you brought up the defense because there seemed to be an inverse relation between them and the offense over the season. The defense definitely started strong, while the offense struggled. I think the Auburn game was the turning point where the offense clicked thanks the defense started to decline some. Now, the D actually put up a good fight against Auburn by only allowing 21 in regulations. But the made for points overtime system made them look a lot worse than they were and that may have blown some confidence. The pass defense has been weak against spread teams. There just isn't enough depth on the defense yet to spread them that thin with defensive backs.
Jon: How do you see the Liberty Bowl playing out?
Ryan:I don't have any feel on this game. I could see it being close and I could either team winning by 14. But for entertainment purposes only, I will take the Hogs 31-17.
Thanks to Ryan (and to Doc) for their cooperation this week. Be sure to stop by Arkansas Fight and check out their work. They're quite possibly the best (and least insane) source for Hog info out there, and that's not an exaggeration.