Establishing the Run and Lucky Laundry: How to Beat Kentucky

Wesley Hitt - Getty Images

With 2-2 in the SEC tantalizing close, it's time to get superstitious

What were you doing at this time last week?

Also, what were you wearing, what were you eating and who were you with? Try hard to remember, and do it all again.

As the superstitious go, most of us probably fall somewhere between Michael Jordan, who wore his skimpy North Carolina shorts underneath his baggier Bulls uniform, and the full-blown lunacy of former major leaguers Kevin Rhomberg and Turk Wendell.

Here at Expats, we're certainly not above attempting to conjure our own good luck.

This time last week, Alfred Davis and I were pledging to keep our shoes on, and in this space we outlined what the Hogs would need to do remove the "laughing stock" tag and apply it directly to Gene Chizik's ample forehead. And...voila! The Hogs followed our steps nearly to a T, and looks who's no longer in last place.

So we're gonna try this again. This time, though, instead of your shoes, we want you keep your shirt on. An explanation is probably warranted...

If you're even the least bit superstitious, chances are you've got a lucky article of clothing you break out every Saturday. Mine rotates. A loss, and whatever I'm wearing goes to the back of the closet for the rest of the year.

During September I cycled through every Hog T-shirt in the house - even breaking out the long-retired Miracle on Markham shirt - before I finally found a winner in a polo last worn to the Georgia game in 2010 and at Vandy in 2011. I'd planned to reserve it for road games I attended, but it's all I've got left that remain undefeated, so it will be worn every Saturday henceforth until Arkansas loses.

Beyond lucky laundry, let's look at three things the Hogs need to do to win this weekend.

1. Rush for 150 yards

The running game made strides in last week's win over Auburn, turning in its most effective outing since Jacksonville State. But it still needs to be better.

Knile Davis, sadly, remains a shell of the sophomore who stormed the SEC in 2010 and pounded his way into the hearts of Razorback fans when he dominated the fourth quarter against LSU that year. The coaching staff seems to have stopped trying to force the issue; against Auburn, Davis registered just three carries for minus-4 yards.

Even without their erstwhile superstar, the Hogs have the players in the backfield to get the job done. Dennis Johnson was good, if not great, against Auburn, and freshman Jonathan Williams continues to show flashes of big-time playmaking ability. Likewise, the offensive line appears to be improving.

The next step is to forcibly impose their will on the opponent.

Against Auburn, the Hogs mounted a credible threat on the ground, creating just enough balance for the offense. If Arkansas can establish a truly powerful attack on the ground, the skies should really open up for Tyler, Cobi & Company.

2. Convert on third down

It's more than a little amazing that Arkansas was able to win a game in which it converted only 3 of 12 third downs and only one after the first quarter. Much of the credit is of course due to the defense that forced eight sacks, five turnovers and held Auburn to a not-much-better 4-of-12 rate on third downs.

It makes sense that a defense littered with freshmen (often four on the field against Auburn) would improve with each passing week. But not every (any?) offense will be as bad as Auburn's. The Arkansas offense can do its part to help by staying on the field and avoiding three-and-outs.

Arkansas currently ranks 108th in the country with only 31.65 percent of third downs converted. The NCAA median rate is 41.26 percent. If the Hogs can reach even that modest number, they'll stand a good chance of being 2-2 in the SEC after Saturday.

3. With foot on throat, apply pressure

Learning to win is a process, even for a team with 21 victories in the last two seasons. The debacle that was September destroyed whatever confidence remained from those campaigns, but the Razorbacks did an admirable job last weekend of not falling apart when things didn't go their way.

The next step is to not only avoid implosion, but to also put teams away.

Maybe it's nit-picking to find fault with any SEC road win that ends a four-game losing streak, but especially during this stretch of winnable games, the Arkansas offense must re-acquire a killer instinct. The Hogs wobbled Auburn early last Saturday, but allowed the Tigers to keep it way too interesting until two Arkansas touchdowns in the fourth quarter secured the win.

Given the chance against Kentucky, the Razorbacks need to do more than avoid a meltdown. They need to force one from the Wildcats.

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