Rutgers Preview: Best-Case/Worst-Case

I'll take about 25 of these for a buck-fifty on Saturday, please. - Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Because there's about a million ways we can see this one going

Let's count the things we know about the 2013 Razorbacks:

1. Those tailbacks are good.

2. Those defensive ends are good.

3. That passing game is ... Hey, how about that Zach Hocker?

Not that I'm cynical (I'm really not). It's just that there's not much we can feel 100 percent certain about after three wins over lackluster opponents.

I will say this, though: I feel twice as confident in our prospects going forward as I did at this time last year -- even without an All-Conference QB/WR duo -- thanks to a coaching staff that has yet to display gross incompetence. Despite the bickering from some fringe segments of the fanbase regarding last week's conservative play-calling, the staff deserves high marks for overcoming a not-insignificant serving of adversity and keeping the season on the track.

As for the rest of the questions, we'll start to get our answers Saturday when the Hogs travel to Rutgers for their first road game of the season against their first opponent from a BCS conference (barely).

Let's play a little best-case/worst-case involving some of the most glaring unknowns:

QUARTERBACK

Best-case scenario: Brandon Allen is fine (hooray!), plays Saturday, and returns to the calm, accurate signal caller he was in the season opener against La.-Lafayette. ...OR... A.J. Derby fills in, is able to manage the game, hits a big play down the field early to earn the defense's respect, and from there provides just enough of a threat with his ability to scramble and complete short passes to keep Rutgers honest.

Worst-case: Derby can't hit an open receiver, turns the ball over more than once, and the Rutgers defense (which, through three games, ranks 5th in the nation against the run) puts nine guys in the box to stop Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Best-case: The big boys up front do what they've done all year: Pound defenses with body blows for three quarters, opening enough lanes to spring a couple of big runs. Then in the fourth quarter, drop the haymaker: a grueling, clock-draining,  will-killing touchdown drive that puts the game away.

Worst-case: Rutgers' quickness on the defensive front overwhelms Arkansas, keeping the Hogs behind the chains and not allowing for those long drives that have greatly benefited Arkansas both in terms of keeping the Hogs defense rested and opposing defenses weary.

RUSHING DEFENSE

Best-case: Against their stiffest test yet, the Hogs do just what they've done all year. Bend, not break, and then get off the field on third down (Arkansas is allowing opponents to convert just 28 percent of third downs this year). The front seven shows that they're at their best against a power-running attack and holds Rutgers to about half of the 217 rushing yards per game the Scarlet Knights are currently averaging.

Worst case: Rutgers' Paul James, who leads the nation with 491 rushing yards through three games (along with six TDs and an 8-yard-per-carry average), wears down the Hogs, ripping off a couple of big runs, then pounding a gassed unit in the second half.

PASSING DEFENSE

Best-case: The pass rush makes it a long night for either the concussed Gary Nova or Chris Dodd, his backup. Rohan Gaines returns to shore up a sometimes-shaky back four, and the corners show a long-dormant ability to break on a ball while it's in the air and force a couple of turnovers.

Worst-case: This happens. (For those who'd rather not spend a click to relive it, Nova passed for nearly 400 yards on Arkansas in Rutgers' 35-26 win last season.)

I truly have no idea what to expect, and neither does Vegas, apparently. The Hogs opened as a one-point favorite, but the public believes in Rutgers, moving the line to Scarlet Knights (-1).

Which of these scenarios seem more likely to you?

---

Brent 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 House hours. On Saturdays, he can usually be found freaking out about something at @thebholloway.

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