Arkansas (3-0) at Rutgers (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Arkansas 3-0, Rutgers 2-0. Away Record: Arkansas 0-0, Rutgers 0-1. Neutral Record: Arkansas 0-0, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: Arkansas 0-0, Rutgers 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights will attempt to close out their three- game homestand undefeated on Saturday afternoon, as they welcome the Arkansas Razorbacks to High Point Solutions Stadium.
After tallying just four wins during the 2012 season, Arkansas is off to a fast start in Brett Bielema's first year as head coach, winning each of its first three contests (all at home). The Razorbacks rallied behind an outstanding defensive effort last Saturday on their way to a 24-3 victory over Southern Miss.
Rutgers' season got off to a heart-breaking start when it dropped a 52-51 overtime bout at Fresno State on Aug. 29, but since then it has bounced back with two straight wins, toppling Norfolk State (38-0) and most recently, Eastern Michigan (28-10). The emotional win over EMU came on the same day Eric LeGrand's No. 52 became the first jersey number retired in the program's 144- year history.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these non-conference opponents.
The Razorbacks have gotten off to a strong offensive start this season (29.7 ppg), thanks mostly to their impressive rushing attack which ranks 11th in the nation (294.3 ypg).
The two-running back system is made up of Alex Collins (418 yards, two TDs) and Jonathan Williams (393 yards, three TDs), both of whom have rushed for over 100 yards in each of the first three games, marking the first time in school history that feat has been accomplished. In addition, Collins is the first true freshman in SEC history to top the century mark in each of his first three contests and the NCAA's first since Adrian Peterson had nine- straight 100-yard games to start his career at Oklahoma in 2004.
Brandon Allen has been efficient under center (.591 completion percentage, 388 yards, five TDs, INT), but he injured his shoulder against Southern Miss on a rushing touchdown and is listed as questionable for this matchup. If he can't go, A.J. Darby will get the call. He completed 4-of-6 passes filling in for Allen last week.
Javontee Herndon is the squad's standout receiver, leading the team in receptions (10), yards (165) and touchdowns (three).
While the competition hasn't exactly been stellar, the UA defense has nonetheless played outstanding, allowing just 12.7 ppg while holding all three opponents to less than 300 total yards.
Chris Smith has been a difference-maker on the defensive line with 5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks and four QB hurries. Jarrett Lake and Braylon Mitchell have 20 tackles apiece, while Will Hines, Trey Flowers and JaMichael Winston each have an interception.
Rutgers offense has been outstanding in the early going, putting up 39.0 ppg and 413.3 ypg, but it too could be without its starting quarterback in this matchup.
Gary Nova has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 542 yards with six touchdowns to two interceptions, but he needed to bow out of last Saturday's contest after just four pass attempts with a concussion. If he is unable to go, Chas Dodd (4-of-10, 45 yards) will get the start.
Regardless of the quarterback situation, at least the Scarlet Knights have one of the nation's top running backs to lean on. Paul James has racked up an FBS- best 493 yards and is tied for first with six rushing scores. The junior tallied 192 yards and three scores against EMU last week.
Despite having just six receptions, Leonte Carroo leads the team with 157 yards and three touchdowns and is a big play waiting to happen. Brandon Coleman (12 receptions, 139 yards, two TDs) has also been a reliable option.
Since surrendering 51 points to Fresno State in the opener, Rutgers has tightened up defensively in allowing just 10 points over the past two weeks, bringing its season averages to 20.7 ppg and 347.7 ypg.
The Scarlet Knights get a lot of pressure up front, having racked up 22 TFL and 10 sacks, with Steve Longa (29 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks), Marcus Thompson (4.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks) and Darius Hamilton (3.0 TFL) the top performers. The unit has forced six turnovers through three games (three INTs, three FF).
With both starting quarterbacks nursing injuries, expect both teams to take to the ground game early, with Collins, Williams and James all destined for big games. Both defensive units have beat up on lesser opponents in recent weeks and will be in for a true test in this one. On the surface, it appears like a remarkably well-matched contest, which gives Rutgers the slightest of advantages playing in from of the home crowd.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 28, Arkansas 27
09/18 10:34:36 ET