How do you solve a problem like McFadden, part I

Like I said yesterday, it's pretty much all McFadden all the time around the McInternetosphere this week. Okay, already. We know that he looks scary good. We know that he had 321 yards against Steve Spurrier and that he and Felix Jones combined for 487, numbers that coach Fulmer characterized as "unbelievable." No, we don't know whether we can stop him.

Auburn had the most success against the Razorbacks' run game.  How'd they do it? According to Jones, "[Auburn] had more people in the box than we could count." Okay, good information. How many is that? Let's see, giving them the benefit of the doubt and making some assumptions (they should at least be able to use their fingers; Jones likely has ten of them), then that means . . . calculating . . . calculating . . . almost there! . . . eleven. Auburn had eleven in the box.

Okay, not really, but stocking the box seems to be the only solution. Of course, it comes at a price, and teams really can't afford to ignore the Hogs' pass attack. Against Steve Spurrier, Arkansas completed nine of 11 passes, and three of them went for touchdowns.

Still, there is no doubt that McFadden is the centerpiece of the team, and it's therefore no wonder that all pre-game, in-game, and post-game conversation orbits around him. There is at least one desirable effect of all of the McTalk about McFadden, though: it, and the fear of embarrassment, is angering and thereby motivating Tennessee's players. So expect John Chavis to McStock the McBox on Saturday, but also expect the team to employ the unconventional the-best-defense-is-a-good-offense philosophy. Who knows? Maybe defense doesn't win championships.

I usually don't do this until game day, but I thought it might be informative to actually take a look at the respective numbers earlier this week.

Tennessee rush
v.
Arkansas defense
Tennessee pass
v.
Arkansas defense
Arkansas rush
v.
Tennessee defense
Arkansas pass
v.
Tennessee defense
58 38 74 65
57 1 2 111
Push
Arkansas logo
Arkansas logo
Tennessee logo

 

Field Goals
Tennessee punting
v.
Arkansas punt return
Arkansas punting
v.
Tennessee punt return
Intangibles
T-12 45 79  
T-22 82 82  
Tennessee logo
Tennessee logo
Push
???

Is anyone else surprised to learn that Arkansas has the best pass defense in the nation? Our passing game has been trending downward the past several games, and if Robert Meachem couldn't get off the line of scrimmage last year, I wouldn't count on our current receivers to do it.

But anyway, what can we glean from the above? On offense, we might be able to run, but we won't be able to pass. On defense, we can stop the pass, but we won't be able to stop the run. Ergo, running the ball and stopping the run, usually keys to big games, are even more likely to decide the outcome of this one.

So what do we do? On defense, rush four and have all three linebackers and both safeties focus on limiting McFadden's and Jones' rushing yards. Tell the corners to play their respective receivers man-to-man from snap to whistle and to never, ever, ever even glance in the direction of McFadden because if they do, they'll get suckered into the Wild Hog play action. On offense, run the ball. Chew the clock. Score, score, and score some more. Keep McFadden off the field and out of a rhythm.

This post is quite long, so I'm splitting it up into two pieces. The slightly more optimistic second part takes a closer look at Arkansas' prior opponents and attempts to determine whether the Hogs' running game really deserves that No. 2 ranking. The answer may surprise you.

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