Toby Keith crooned in his country twang, “Go west young man, haven’t you been told?/California’s full of whiskey, women, and gold.” However, Arkansas football has historically not found Keith’s cowboy paradise when they travel west.
Quite the opposite, actually. Arkansas football is 2-5-1 in games played in the Mountain, Pacific, or Hawaiian-Aleutian time zones (including bowl games).
Simply put: Once Arkansas football moves west of the Great Plains states, they have strugggggggled.
It’s not just that they only have a 25% winning percentage when they play out west, but how they have lost that stings. The average point differential in their losses is 21.8 points, while they only average 9.5 points in their wins.
And, yes, the 70-17 loss to USC in 2005 does carry a lot of weight in that average, but the Hogs also have double-digit losses to programs like Santa Clara (who has not fielded a football team since 1992) and UNLV.
That history is one of the many things Arkansas football will compete against when they take on BYU (4-2) today at 2:30 p.m. (1:30 MST). However, the Razorbacks also have a laundry list of other issues at play.
The secondary immediately comes to mind. BYU averages 264.3 yards per game through the air and their quarterback, Jaren Hall, is an accurate passer. He completes nearly 70 percent of his passes on the season with 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions. However, Hall has been banged up recently, so the door may be open just a crack there.
One bright spot for the Razorbacks is that BYU isn’t much better in the red zone than the Hogs are. Arkansas football has moved the ball well this year; they just aren’t converting inside the red zone. They will likely have opportunities, though, as BYU is just middle-of-the-pack (58th overall) defensively and even worse (100th overall) against the rush.
KJ Jefferson, the offensive line, and the running back room should be licking their chops today. They will likely have to score buckets of points for the Hogs to win this one.
Arkansas football must run and score effectively if they want to defeat history today.
The Razorbacks certainly have a shot at winning this game today. Keith’s western utopia might be attainable in Provo.