LITTLE ROCK — Inspired by a modicum of success, “Guesstimating, The Sequel,” is here.
A selective memory helps when it is time to cite accurate guesses from Arkansas’ opener vs. Jacksonville State. For instance, this was written: “Arkansas had 24 first downs vs. Missouri State and a repeat is on tap. The difference is that the Razorbacks made 466 against MSU and will add 100 to that vs. Jacksonville State.”
The final count was 25 first downs and 564 yards.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was predicted to throw fewer than his 24 attempts in the 2011 season opener, but gain more yardage. He tried 27 vs. Jacksonville State, had one more completion than a year earlier, but produced 107 more yards.
Cobi Hamilton and Chris Gragg were supposed to catch a total of 10 passes, split evenly. Instead, Gragg had seven of their nine catches. Four was right on for Brandon Mitchell and two was the correct number for Ronnie Wingo.
A projected big day for freshman Jonathan Williams was way off. He made a yard on his only carry. Knile Davis’ 18 carries were about double what was expected.
Enough with the history, stats compiled vs. Louisiana-Monroe is a new game and the Warhawks start with two strikes.
First, a contender in the Southeastern Conference has a talent advantage over a team picked in the middle of the Sun Belt Conference.
Second, there is a long-held theory that a team improves the most from game one to game two and this is ULM’s opener. On that note, Arkansas’ defense will look better against the pass than it did a week ago even though the stats might say differently.
For starters, ULM quarterback Kolton Browning is supposed to be a more adept passer than the Jacksonville State quarterbacks and he is a running threat.
Evaluating the UA defense tonight is more about preventing the long pass and tackling the receiver shortly after the catch than yards allowed and passes completed.
Some were aghast that Jacksonville State made 322 yards vs. the Razorbacks. In today’s college football, that’s no big deal. Holding ULM under 350 yards is realistic.
With Arkansas’ offense, the safest guess is that Wilson will have a big game. Pretty much, a 67 percent completion rate is the norm for him.
When Arkansas’ running game produced only 164 yards last week, coach John L. Smith explained that Jacksonville State was all in to stop the run and that the Razorbacks’ approach was, “ …you aren’t going to sit there and bang your head against a chair when all you need to do is throw it down the field.”
If ULM is balanced on defense, Arkansas should be able to run the ball more effectively and Wilson won’t throw as much. Put him down for 25 attempts and 19 completions for 320 yards.
Davis should get fewer carries than he did in the opener and net more yards. He had 80 yards in the first half, but lost 11 on one play in the third quarter. A long run is in the making and Davis winds up with 15 for 110.
In this imagined world, Williams gets more chances than he did the first week and nets 60 yards.
Gragg will be his usual reliable self with five catches for 75 and Mitchell will continue to impress with four more grabs for 80. An injury limited Cobi Hamilton to two catches a week ago, but he’ll lead the team this week with six.
Opinions change on the go and “Cover It Live” is one way to keep up. That’s our new live blog and readers can check it out on our website during tonight’s game.
ULM coach Todd Berry says his players are much more positive about the Arkansas game than two years ago when the Razorbacks won 31-7. Positive or not, a 24-point deficit is again in store for ULM.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.