For the second time in the last three weeks, the Hogs just ran up against a better team.
There’s not much else to say about Saturday’s 63-35 loss in the Swamp, so we’ll keep this brief. Florida’s on a roll and will probably challenge Alabama for the SEC title. The Razorbacks probably missed coach Sam Pittman, as Barry Odom had a bunch of responsibilities as interim coach and couldn’t focus on helping the defense stop Kyle Trask and the Gators. There were also unforced errors, like a season-high 79 penalty yards and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
Grading the Hogs
- Offense: B+. Florida’s not great on defense, but the Gators aren’t terrible. The Hogs ran only 51 plays and had the ball for just 21 minutes, but still topped 450 yards of offense for just the second time this season thanks to several big plays and lots of early-downs success.
- Defense: D+. Florida’s approaching 2019 LSU levels right now on offense. Trask is a very accurate quarterback who has great weapons and plays in a great scheme. The best way to stop this offense is to get pressure, and the Hogs aren’t good at that right now.
- Special Teams: C-. No major disasters, but Florida had better production on both punt returns and kickoff returns. Arkansas has gone seven games this year without having a better performance on special teams than their opponent.
- Overall: C. A “meh” performance overall. This team coached by Chad Morris probably lays down at halftime and loses 63-14. It’ll be good to have Coach Pittman back next week.
Advanced Stats Recap
(NOTE: Confused by any of these stats? Check out the advanced stats glossary.)
- Florida’s pass game was dominant and its run game was serviceable. That’s all the Gators needed on offense.
- Florida was insanely productive when falling behind the chains, posting excellent efficiency numbers on passing downs and third downs.
- Arkansas’ offense continues to improve on standard downs and is now actually really good. The Hogs were extremely efficient and peppered the Gators with big standard downs plays via the run and the pass.
- An inability to protect Feleipe Franks against the SEC sack leading-Gators was the undoing of the offense, which was excellent otherwise.
The Hogs have lost the battle of Special Teams EVA in all seven games this year. That’s not great. This team has had to earn all of its advantages this year.
Losing 3.9 total points to penalties is really not great. The Hogs entered ranking 4th in the SEC in offensive penalty margin and 5th in defensive penalty margin, so this was a surprise. Perhaps the game-week coach shuffle affected team discipline, but the Hogs cannot afford to shoot themselves in the foot like that.
Other than that, this game was a good offense against a great offense. Not much else to say.
I’ve highlighted the key stats that defined this game.
Florida: Good on standard downs, great on passing downs
The Gators were excellent on standard downs. We knew this coming in. From the Stats Study:
Florida comes out throwing on early downs (only Mississippi State runs it less on standard downs) and they are really, really good, boasting the SEC’s most efficient and most explosive standard downs offense. The Razorbacks have been really good in standard downs defense this year...
Florida won that battle, posting a 60% standard downs success rate even as the Gators didn’t get a ton of explosive plays. Standard downs success allowed Florida to take advantage of the biggest weakness of this Razorback defense:
...but the Hogs’ inability to knock opponents off schedule (8th in leverage rate) is going to keep the Gators’ playbook open. That’s going to be the biggest concern Saturday.
A staggering 79% of Florida plays happened on standard downs. That’ll do it. But even in the rare occasion Florida was knocked off schedule, the Gators were still dominant, going +30% on marginal third downs and recording a 65% passing downs success rate. Texas A&M went +26% on third downs, so there’s a pattern there in the worst defensive performances of the season for the Hogs.
Arkansas: great on standard downs, bad on passing downs
For the Hogs, the standard downs performance was amazing. The Hogs have gone from being a bad team on early downs (Georgia and Miss State games) to a mediocre team (Auburn and Ole Miss games) to a good team (last three weeks). The Razorback offense had a 64% standard downs success rate (which is amazing) and added touchdowns of 47, 81, and 83, all on standard downs. An extremely-high standard downs explosiveness and a high leverage rate is the ideal of the Kendal Briles offense.
That said, the passing downs performance was bad. And it’s really all due to one stat: 43% of all dropbacks on passing downs ended in a sack. Oof. This isn’t unexpected:
[Florida DC Todd] Grantham has always been known for his aggressive defenses, so the Hogs have to keep their quarterback upright to stay alive in a shootout.
While protection was shoddy, the expected payoff of facing an aggressive defense also materialized:
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s unit allows too many explosive plays and can be torched by a capable passer.
The sacks-explosive plays tradeoff worked in Arkansas’ favor, as the Hogs played well enough on offense to beat most SEC teams. Scoring 35 points and gaining 461 yards on just 51 plays and 12 drives is quite good. Still, keeping Franks up on passing downs will continue to be important moving forward.
What’s going on with Rakeem Boyd?
When Rakeem Boyd announced that he would return to Arkansas for his senior season after rushing for 1,100 yards and more than 5.5 per carry in 2019, the expectation was that he would carry the offense in a transitional 2020 season.
That... hasn’t happened. Boyd was shut down (as expected) in the opener against Georgia and then got hurt on the second drive of the game against Mississippi State. He then missed the Auburn game. Arizona State transfer Trelon Smith, a smaller, quicker back took over lead back duties with only mild assistance from third-stringer A’Montae Spivey, who entered the transfer portal after Boyd’s return. Kendal Briles went more pass-heavy until Boyd returned against Ole Miss. But since Boyd’s return, he’s struggled. He’s been pretty efficient but the explosiveness that defined his first two seasons has completely vanished.
Here are the rusher stats from the Florida game:
This is lopsided. Smith is significantly better in every single stat. Boyd also lost a fumble, which shows up in the EVA numbers but didn’t affect the rest. From this alone, it’s clear Smith deserves the lion’s share of carries.
But the full-season numbers don’t make that quite as clear:
Smith has a slightly higher opportunity rate (percent of runs to gain 6+) and a much higher bonus yards per opportunity (average yards gained beyond 6 on opportunity runs). Smith has also added much more win probability. But the two are roughly equal in terms of overall efficiency, stuff rate, and line yards. The latter two of those stats are largely a product of the offensive line, so it makes sense that they’d be similar given that both backs run behind the same line.
In all, the bird’s-eye view is that Smith is much more explosive, but the two are equally efficient. Since the open date, however, Smith has been much better:
- Success Rate: Smith 64%, Boyd 54%
- Opportunity Rate: Smith 50%, Boyd 38%
- Bonus Yards per Opportunity: Smith 10.9, Boyd 2.7
The emerging pattern is that Smith is much more explosive and slightly more efficient. Both backs are efficient. Boyd had 48 carries in these games and Smith has just 22. Is that a large enough sample size to clearly say that Smith should be getting more carries than Boyd?
It’s Boot time! The Hogs host struggling LSU in Fayetteville. If the Hogs want to go 5-5 (which would be an amazing accomplishment), it’s a must-win.