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Third Downs and Penalties: Perception is Reality

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It seems as though we Arkansas fans have spent a good chunk of this football season bemoaning the offense's inability to convert on third downs and its tendency to rack up penalties.

The other day, I thought to myself, "Are we perhaps being too hard on Mallett and Co.? Are the guys really that bad to compared to other teams?" I boldly went out in search of truth and context. (Actually, I ordered some of our interns to find out and promptly set out for an afternoon of Frisbee golf.)

Here's what our interns discovered: Yes, the Hogs are pretty bad when compared to other teams, at least to those in the SEC.

As of this Thursday afternoon, the Razorbacks rank 10th in the conference with a third-down conversion rate of 36.1 percent. Only Tennessee (28.7 percent) and Vandy (23.6 percent) are worse. All year, I thought the emergence of the running game would help Arkansas in this area but - small sample size alert! - the Hogs turned in their best ground game of the season against Ole Miss and still converted only three of 11 third-down attempts. (Amazingly, the Rebels were even worse, converting a whopping four of their 17 third-down attempts.)

As for penalties, the Arkansas offense ranks first in the SEC in both the number of penalties (58) and yards lost due to penalties (463). (Depressingly, Auburn, which is tied for second in the former category and has the No. 2 spot all to itself in the latter, has played one more game than the Hogs.) At first glance, you would think a team coached by a semi-joyless hard ass like Petrino would be more disciplined. But maybe the Hogs are so nervous about incurring their coach's wrath that they become more likely to make mistakes. I'm mostly kidding when I say that, but it is kind of mystifying to me why the Hogs are so bad in this area.

What are your thoughts about the Hogs, third downs and penalties?