Arkansas Football: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Which will it be this weekend in The Swamp?

After Saturday's date with the Gators in Gainesville, Fla., Arkansas will be halfway through one of the most brutal stretches on any team's 2013 schedule -- and halfway through its first season under Bret Bielema.

At this point, I honestly expected to be cowering in a corner somewhere, preparing to absorb 40-point beatdowns for the next three weeks similar to that ill-fated run during Bobby Petrino's first year in 2008.

The Hogs could still lose the next three -- and will be expected to do so by most prognosticators -- but Razorback fans are feeling a little bit better about their chances this season, and for good reason, as the venerable Doc Harper pointed out this week.

But how much progress has truly been made?

It's hard to say. To date, the Hogs have three wins over lackluster opponents, an ugly road loss played without the starting QB, and a respectable home loss against a top-ten team. The offense has looked pretty good, then bad, then pretty good again. The defense has been wildly inconsistent ranging from great to awful sometimes from one series to the next.

Let's recap the good, the bad and the ugly of what we've seen so far and what we might see Saturday night at The Swamp.

The Good: Florida has played sloppy football in 2013, turning the ball over 10 times (second-most in the SEC), and ranking 11th in the conference in penalties and penalty yardage. If you're concocting a recipe for an Arkansas upset, these are the key ingredients.

The Bad: The Gators' defense is downright nasty. Remember how dangerous and multi-faceted Texas A&M was on offense? This is the other side of that coin. Florida gives up only 202 yards per game -- a full 100-plus yards better than the second-ranked defense in the conference -- and yields a staggeringly low 17.8 percent successful third-down conversions.

The Ugly: Florida averages a national-best nearly 39 minutes of possession per game, leaving opponents just 21 minutes to do what they can on offense. They're basically doing what we want to do, only better.

The Good: Arkansas' offensive line looked improved last week, due at least some to the insertion of mammoth true freshmen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper into the starting guard spots. The unit didn't give up a sack and led the way to over 200 rushing yards. Of course, Texas A&M has been suspect against the run all season, but nonetheless, these guys did their job last week.

The Bad: Arkansas' pass defense. The numbers for the season don't look that bad, but Arkansas is 0-2 when facing competent passers. The combined numbers of Gary Nova and Johnny Manziel: 607 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT.

The Ugly: The Aggies ran all over the Hogs in the second half last week. Granted, this is the same offense that put up 42 points and averaged 5.1 yards per carry on No. 1 Alabama, but Hogs' inability to stuff the run was somewhat disconcerting. Arkansas actually did a decent job against explosive starter Ben Malena (12 carries, 40 yards), but big Tra Carson ran through a whole lot of arm tackles. That needs to be fixed this week or Florida's Matt Jones (6-2, 226) is gonna have himself a day.

The Good: Florida's starting quarterback (Jeff Driskel) is out for the year.

The Bad: Their backup (Tyler Murphy) might be better than their starter.

The Ugly: What would happen if Brandon Allen were to go down again? The good news is that Allen is clearly back, and with him the Hogs are a different team. The jury is out on how good the redshirt sophomore is or can be, but it's clear that he's head and shoulders above Arkansas' other options, and when he's under center, the coaching staff is comfortable opening up the playbook.

Holloway is an escaped journalist, but will consider returning to the industry for hundreds of thousands of dollars and a position that doesn't require Waffle Hours hours. Cross your fingers and hope for the best with him every Saturday on Twitter, @thebholloway.

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