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Playin’ Nice: Arkansas Fight

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Doc Harper of our sister blog Arkansas Fight fills our hog trough.

Arkansas Fight

1. It seems like NovemBERT is back for Arkansas. How big was last week's win against Florida?

Really big. Arkansas had a bye week the week between that game and the 56-3 disaster at Auburn, so we had two weeks of wailing up leading up to the Florida game. Something good really needed to happen. It clinched bowl eligibility, which wasn't in serious danger but with the inconsistent way Arkansas has played this season, you couldn't be comfortable. Losing by 53 points causes you question a lot of things. Beating Florida by 21 answered at least some of them.

2. On offense, Arkansas is getting some very strong play from Austin Allen and the passing game, but the running game has been a struggle compared to years past. What is the story there?

Three new offensive linemen and new running backs. That's the long and the short of it. Despite Arkansas' reputation with linemen, Bielema has had some pretty spotty recruiting along the line. They haven't hit their target in numbers either of the last couple of seasons. Some of the more highly rated recruits Arkansas signed haven't developed as expected. So Arkansas has been starting Hjalte Froholdt, a sophomore who was a defensive tackle last year, at left guard, and Jake Raulerson, a grad transfer from Texas who has struggled at times at right guard. Arkansas started a walk-on at right guard against Florida and he actually played pretty well. That might continue.

The new running backs are good, but they're not as good as Alex Collins was last year. Devwah Whaley is our true freshman who's coming on strong and Rawleigh Williams is an All-SEC candidate, so it'll be really important for Arkansas to continue running the ball successfully like they did against Florida, which was the most surprising thing about the Florida win to me. I did not expect Arkansas to run the ball well.

3. Arkansas has played solid defense the last few seasons, but things seem to have fallen off, particularly against the run. How much of a concern is that with LSU coming in?

It was a huge concern for me, but it was lessened a bit after the Florida game. I know the Gators aren't a great offensive team, but Arkansas' run defense numbers were among the worst in the country, and I really didn't know if Arkansas had the ability to stop anybody. The fact that the Hogs only allowed 12 rushing yards to Florida was impressive.

The reason people here are hoping that could correlate to LSU is that both Florida and LSU run more pro style offenses. They're really the first two of them Arkansas has faced all year. The Razorbacks did play better against these types of offenses last year, and have played well against Fournette both seasons, so there's reason to be optimistic.

Also, the coaches finally essentially admitted they made some mistakes with some experiments and reshuffled some defensive linemen. Hopefully that continues to work out.

4. LSU is in their usual spot of trying to get over the Alabama game coming into this game. Arkansas and their fans are annually sky-high for this game. Can you explain what makes this rivalry so intense on the Razorback side?

I think it has to do with leaving the SWC way back when. Arkansas fans were looking for new teams to hate, and since it was the last game of the year for so long, LSU has been a premier opponent for almost all of that time, a lot of people here just bought into it. But there are still people here who, whenever we get the chance to play Texas, all those old feelings come alive, and it's a much more pure hatred.

Keep in mind, it's still nothing like some crazy Iron Bowl type of rivalry feeling here. I don't think hate among Arkansas fans is universal for LSU. There are those of us who hate Auburn, which largely stems from animosity toward Malzahn (the group I'm in). There are people who hate Ole Miss.

5. Best guess at how you see things going on Saturday?

I think it'll be a close game, probably low-scoring. Arkansas' best games have come when I've picked them to lose so I'll say LSU 24-21.