Southern Miss (0-2) at Arkansas (2-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 12:21 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000) -- Fayetteville, Arkansas. Television: SEC Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: USM 0-1, Arkansas 2-0. Away Record: USM 0-1, Arkansas 0-0. Neutral Record: USM 0-0, Arkansas 0-0. Conference Record: USM 0-0, Arkansas 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Arkansas Razorbacks attempt to stay undefeated to start the Brett Bielema era, as they play host to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon in non-conference action.
Southern Miss has had a rough go of it to start the season. A year after going winless in 12 tries under Ellis Johnson, the Golden Eagles have dropped their first two games under new head coach Todd Monken to extend their losing streak to 14. They fell at home in the season opener versus Texas State (22-15), and followed that up with a blowout defeat at nationally-ranked Nebraska (56-13).
Also in the first year of a new regime, Arkansas has experienced the exact opposite fate as Southern Miss early in the season by starting 2-0. The Razorbacks took down Louisiana in the opener, 34-14, and while they struggled for much of their latest contest against FCS foe Samford, they escaped with a 31-21 triumph. This matchup will mark the end of a three-game homestand to open the season for the Hogs.
This bout also marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
The Golden Eagles offense has failed to impress early on this season, putting up 14.0 ppg and 342.0 ypg, while converting just 27 percent of third-down attempts. They were stifled last week by the Cornhuskers, committing four turnovers in the 43-point setback.
Allan Bridgford has had little trouble amassing big yardage totals, as he sits with 599 passing yards through two games, but he has completed just 55.7 percent of his passes and has tossed five interceptions paired with only two touchdowns.
Bridgford has been locked in on Tyre'oune Holmes, who is tied for fourth in the FBS with 20 receptions for 161 yards. Rickey Bradley is the offense's home run hitter, tallying 10 receptions for 250 yards and a touchdown.
While the passing game has found some success, the rushing attack has struggled to get off the ground. The team has gained just 85 yards on 51 attempts (1.7 ypc), with Kendrick Hardy's 62 yards leading the way.
Nebraska's point total was inflated by a pair of interception returns for touchdowns, but regardless, Southern Miss still had no answer for the Huskers' well-balanced offense. The unit gave up nearly 480 yards of offense while allowing the home team to score touchdowns on each of its trips to the red zone.
DaBarriaus Miller and Alan Howze are the team's top tacklers with 19 and 18 stops, respectively, with Howze adding a team-best 2.5 TFL. Octavius Thomas has the lone sack.
Even though Arkansas outgained Samford last week, 458-231, it still found itself trailing by four points heading into the fourth quarter before a pair of rushing touchdowns bailed it out of trouble. On the season, offense has not been difficult to come across (32.5 ppg, 490.0 ypg).
Brandon Allen has played very well in his first year as the team's starting quarterback. While he averages less than 178 passing yards per contest, he has tossed five touchdowns against zero interceptions.
The Razorbacks have leaned on their rushing attack with great success, as both Alex Collins (303 yards, TD) and Jonathan Williams (277 yards, two TDs) are averaging more than 6.7 yards per attempt.
Javontee Herndon has been Allen's favorite target in the early going, hauling in eight balls for 143 yards and three touchdowns.
While nobody will confuse the Arkansas defense with some of the other elite units in the SEC, its performance so far in 2012 (17.5 ppg, 252.5 ypg) has been commendable.
The play of the defensive line has been the most impressive, with Trey Flowers (3.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, FF), Robert Thomas (3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) and Chris Smith (2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) all getting off to outstanding starts. Braylon Mitchell leads the team with 15 total stops.
Arkansas' hot start is a great sign coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign, but it has yet to play a quality opponent and still has a lot to prove once its SEC schedule kicks into gear. Luckily for the Razorbacks, a visiting Southern Miss squad that is stuck in a serious rut does not pose much of a threat, and they should easily move to 3-0.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas 41, Southern Miss 24
09/11 10:38:28 ET