VANDERBILT (2-5, 1-3) No. 19 ARKANSAS (5-2, 2-2)
6:08 p.m. (CDT), Saturday
Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.
TV: Fox Sports Net (Comcast, Ch. 28) Radio: WRQQ-FM 97.1
About the Commodores:
• Quarterback Larry Smith has thrown 10 touchdown passes in 18 career games. Smith, whose 143.6 passing yards per game is the lowest in the SEC, has not thrown a touchdown pass in conference play this season.
• Cornerback Casey Hayward has five of his team’s six interceptions this season. The junior, who had two interceptions last season, recorded his fifth pick last week against South Carolina. He shares the conference lead with Alabama’s Robert Lester and both are tied with three others for the most in the FBS.
• The defense has allowed opposing teams to convert on third down just 35.7 percent (40-for-112) of the time. That is the fourth-best percentage in the SEC. The Commodores have held strong when teams go for it on fourth down as well. Opponents are just 4-for-8 (50 percent) as Vanderbilt ranks fourth in the league as well in that category.
• They have scored just seven points in the first quarter this season and have not scored on their opening drive in any game.
About the Razorbacks:
• Quarterback Ryan Mallett has thrown 52 touchdown passes in 31 career games, including 15 this season. Mallett, whose 291.4 passing yards per game is tops in the SEC, has thrown a touchdown pass in every conference game this season.
• Arkansas has intercepted just five passes this season. Safeties Tramain Thomas and Rudell Crim lead the team with two interceptions each.
• The defense has allowed opposing teams to convert on third downs just 31.3 percent (31-for-99) of the time – the best percentage in the SEC. But when teams go for it on fourth down, the Razorbacks aren’t as stingy. Teams have converted on fourth down 75 percent (9-for-12) of the time, which ranks 11th in the SEC.
• They have scored 59 points in the first quarter this season and have scored on three of their seven opening drives.
Something to consider:
• Arkansas’ passing offense (352.1 yards per game) is not only the best in the SEC but is second in the nation. Only Hawaii (400.7 yards per game) has thrown for more yards.
• The Razorbacks have made 20 trips inside the 20-yard line and have scored 18 times, including 15 touchdowns. That 90-percent mark is the best in the SEC and tied for 15th highest in the FBS. Memphis leads the FBS with a perfect mark (9-for-9).
• Vanderbilt has lost 20 straight games when its opponent has scored first. The last time the Commodores bounced back and picked up a victory after their opponent scored first was on Oct. 4, 2008. Vanderbilt rallied from 13 down to knock off then-No. 13 Auburn 14-13.
As if Arkansas needed any more help, Vanderbilt will be without starting cornerback Jamie Graham. Graham, a product of Whites Creek, underwent knee surgery on Wednesday and could be out for three to six weeks. Freshman Steven Clarke is expected to take his place and try to slow down the pass-happy Razorbacks. Arkansas showed last week, however, it can do more than just throw as running back Knile Davis had a career-high 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Mississippi last week.
Expect to see Vanderbilt run the ball more this week, especially with Des Kitchings now calling the shots as offensive coordinator. Kitchings, who has spent the last seasons as the Commodores’ running backs coach, and head coach Robbie Caldwell want to see sophomore tailbacks Warren Norman and Zac Stacy get the ball more. Even if Vanderbilt does find some consistency on the ground, the Commodores won’t be able to keep up in a shootout with Arkansas. The Razorbacks (33.0 points per game) will score quickly and often and this game will most likely be over by the start of the third quarter.
Arkansas 38, Vanderbilt 17