Midseason review: Arkansas


Record: 4-1 (1-1 SEC)

Who could blame the Hogs if they were doing a little scoreboard watching toward the end of their game a week ago? Their 24-17 win over Texas A&M was a little too close for anybody’s taste in the Arkansas camp. But seeing Alabama go down at South Carolina opened up some doors for the Hogs that looked to be bolted shut as recently as a week ago. In short, Arkansas is back in the West race and gets a chance to open up a few more doors this Saturday if it can knock Auburn from the unbeaten ranks in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Hogs have the offensive firepower to light up any scoreboard, but it was the defense that bailed the offense out against the Aggies. That’s something that probably wouldn’t have happened a year ago. Arkansas’ defense was equally solid in the 24-20 loss to Alabama earlier this season, and it’s a unit that’s ranked third in the SEC in total defense right now. The Hogs have done what everybody said they had to do to win a championship, and that’s improve defensively. Their most pressing order of business now may be finding a more consistent running game to help them protect leads and so they’re not having to throw on every down.

Offensive MVP: QB Ryan Mallett. He fell off the Heisman Trophy radar after throwing the three interceptions against Alabama, but few players have the talent, skill and arm strength that Mallett possesses. He leads the SEC with 13 touchdown passes in five games and has already thrown for 1,748 yards. He gets a chance to make amends for those three interceptions Saturday on the Plains. And if he does, watch him show right back up in the Heisman polls.

Defensive MVP: LB Anthony Leon. Lots of choices here, as several players have made key contributions for the Hogs on defense. But the nod goes to Anthony Leon, whose move from safety to outside linebacker has helped to broaden Arkansas’ defense and get more speed on the field. Leon leads the Hogs with eight tackles for loss and is second overall with 35 total tackles.