Campus Corner

Preview of Saturday’s Big 12, SEC games: Arkansas turning the corner

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. The Associated Press

A couple of weeks ago, it was same old, same old at Arkansas. The Razorbacks couldn’t handle Auburn in the second half of the opening game, when the Tigers’ suspended starting quarterback, Nick Marshall, returned.

Tacked onto to last year’s losing drag, Arkansas had a 10-game skid.

Now, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has to preach the even-keel approach. The Razorbacks pummeled Nichols State to end the streak, but the real attention grabber happened last weekend, a 49-28 thrashing at Texas Tech.

“I don’t ignore that we snapped a 10-game losing streak two weeks ago and a road losing streak last week,” Bielema said.

Keep improving is the idea and the next opportunity is Saturday against Northern Illinois, which has been one of the nation’s most successful non-power conference programs over the past few years.

Arkansas is getting solid play from quarterback Brandon Allen, who got off to a fast start last season before being slowed with a shoulder injury.

The offense line also has shown big improvement. Last week, Arkansas paved over Tech with 438 rushing yards. The Razorbacks dominated time of possession, holding the ball for more than 40 minutes.

The plane ride back home was the happiest since a 2012 victory at Auburn.

“It was fun to see … (to) watch my coaches and our players have an understanding of what we have done,” Bielema said.

SEC games

▪ Troy at Georgia, 11 a.m. on SEC Network: The Trojans are 0-3 and it’s not a schedule thing. They’ve lost to Alabama-Birmingham and Abilene Christian and now face a Georgia team that should breathe fire coming off its loss to South Carolina. Look for Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley to have a big day (or first half). Opponents are rushing for 5.2 yards per attempt against Troy.

▪ Texas A&M at SMU, 2:30 p.m. on ABC (Chs. 2, 9): The Aggies are the first opponent for new SMU coach Tom Mason. He replaced June Jones, who resigned last week after the Mustangs’ second straight lopsided loss. Mason said he’ll simplify things. This game was scheduled when the Aggies were in something of a bind. A&M and Arkansas had a long-term contract when the Aggies were Big 12 members. When this became an SEC game, A&M needed to fill schedules on short notice. The program returns to the Metroplex a week later to meet the Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium.

▪ Florida at Alabama, 2:30 p.m. on CBS (Chs. 5, 13): Plenty of mystery surrounds both teams. In the Crimson Tide’s lone game against another power-five conference team, they were pushed into the fourth quarter by West Virginia. The Gators were overwhelmed Eastern Michigan in its opener but needed triple overtime to beat Kentucky in Gainesville. Florida’s power running game with Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor is its strength, but they’re running into the nation’s top rushing defense.

▪ Indiana at Missouri, 3 p.m. on SEC Network: After a 21-year layoff, the series resumed last year and the Tigers won big, 45-28 in Bloomington. Since the beginning of 2013, Indiana running back Tevin Coleman is second nationally in rushing average per game (128.8 yards) and rushing touchdowns (17). He’s a breakaway talent who has 13 carries of 30 or more yards. Counting his final game last year, Coleman has averaged 217.3 yards over his last three games.

▪ Northern Illinois at Arkansas, 6 p.m. on ESPNU: The Huskies own the nation’s longest road-game winning streak. In games played only in an opponent’s stadium, Northern Illinois has won 17 straight, and the list includes Purdue, Iowa and Northwestern. But Northern is 0-2 against teams coached by the Razorbacks’ Bret Bielema when he was at Wisconsin.

▪ Mississippi State at LSU, 6 p.m. on ESPN: Since falling behind Wisconsin 24-7, LSU has outscored opponents 108-0, including shutouts in successive games for the first time since 1941. The last two opponents, Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe, have something to do with it. But this is looking like a top-notch defense that will get tested by Bulldogs and quarterback Dak Prescott. Mississippi State is padding stats, rolling to more than 500 total yards in its 3-0 start.

▪ South Carolina at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network: The Commodores feel better about themselves after collecting a victory last weekend over Massachusetts. Four quarterbacks have taken meaningful snaps for Vandy, but it looks like Patton Robinette is the guy. South Carolina, coming off the Georgia victory, has to avoid the letdown that sunk Virginia Tech and Southern California last week. The Hokies and Trojans followed huge victories with busts.

Big 12 games

▪ Central Michigan at Kansas, 2:30 p.m. on Fox Sports KC: Which Chippewas team shows up in Lawrence, the one that won at Purdue or the one that got rolled at home by Syracuse? Central running back Thomas Rawls, who had rushed for 155 against the Boilermakers, is suspended indefinitely for an arrest on larceny charges. Kansas played a good first quarter in its opener against Southeast Missouri State. The Jayhawks have been outscored 71-13 since then.

▪ Oklahoma at West Virginia, 6:30 p.m. on Fox (Ch. 4): With Sooners running back Keith Ford likely out because of a tibia fracture, freshman Samaje Perine looks to be the featured back. He’s rushed for 59 yards per game and three touchdowns in the 3-0 start and was the team’s top ground gainer against Tennessee with 67 yards. “He’s a strong, physical player and has a great base to him,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.

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