LITTLE ROCK — In order of significance, three numbers to ponder when considering Southern Mississippi’s chances against Arkansas today are 14, 4, and 2.1 million.
The first is the longest losing streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, including a home loss to Texas State this year and a loss to 3-9 UT-El Paso in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 2012. The second is the number of rushing yards that the Golden Eagles accumulated during the first 45 minutes of last week’s 56-13 loss to a Nebraska team that gave up 602 yards to Wyoming in its opener. Preface the final number with a dollar sign and the trifecta is completed with the amount of money Southern Miss accepted to move the Nebraska game from Hattiesburg to Lincoln, a clear sign of a program in an accelerated tailspin.
Remember that under Jeff Bower, Southern Miss was a team nobody was anxious to play, a team that put together 14 straight winning seasons. And, it was only 2011 when the Golden Eagles won 12 under Larry Fedora, now the coach at North Carolina.
Nebraska ran for 285 yards against Southern Miss and Arkansas is expected to better that since the Razorbacks’ 2-0 start is anchored by consistent production from the running game.
The first week, Arkansas ran for 292 and averaged 5.7 per try. Despite a 20-minute, mid-game lull in Little Rock, the Razorbacks ran for 333 and averaged 6.3 per attempt.
The 333 total is particularly significant because I wrote that Arkansas would rush for more than 330. Fullback Kiero Small made it happen, gaining, 4, 4, and 5 yards before Brandon Allen took a knee with seconds to play. On five other over-under self-made propositions, the outcome was 3-1-1.
This week, even though Southern Miss is likely to give up before the fourth quarter begins, I expect Arkansas to barely top 300 yards rushing. For one thing, Arkansas’ defense is due to score off a turnover or, at the very least, leave the offense a short distance to cover for six points. For another, Allen to Julian Horton or Javontee Herndon or a tight end could produce a quick six.
Last week, the over-under on Arkansas’ pass attempts was 24 and I went under. Allen threw 17 times, all in the first 45 minutes. If both teams stick to the script, Allen will top 200 yards passing on 18 attempts or so and retire to the sideline to cheer A.J. Derby in the fourth quarter.
The one miss last week was going under on 36 combined carries for Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, believing Arkansas would dispose of the Bulldogs early. Williams and Collins totaled 41, but I would go under 36 this week, again anticipating a rout. Constantly praised by Bret Bielema, Nate Holmes might get a half-dozen carries today.
Louisiana-Lafayette completed 17 passes against Arkansas and Samford, content with dinky stuff, did two better but the over-under would be higher for Southern Miss and quarterback Allan Bridgford. The transfer from Cal was 28-of-53 the first week and 21-of-35 last week. It is his two-game total of five interceptions that leads me to believe the two teams will combine for more than two turnovers. That was the number last week and Arkansas led in that undesirable category, 2-0 — a prime reason that the outcome was in doubt deep into the fourth quarter.
By the way, the final over-under in last week’s column was the attendance at 53,089, an easy under knowing that thousands of tickets were unsold. A mid-week e-mail said tickets were available this week and capacity is supposed to be 72,000. Considering the quality of the opponent and Alabama-Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m., the number would be 67,500 and I’d go under.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.