Most people remember the seven overtime game that Kentucky played against Arkansas in 2003. And in celebrating Jared Lorenzen this weekend, that game will be on a lot of peoples’ minds.
Since then, however, Kentucky is 2-1 against the Razorbacks. The last time these teams played was in 2012, and Arkansas won handily with a score of 49-7, which was the season prior to Mark Stoops’ arrival in Lexington.
The matchup this year is certainly an interesting one. Kentucky is coming off of a historic 10-win season, and while expected to take a step back were still expected to have a good year. Arkansas is in their second year with coach Chad Morris, and they are still in the middle of a rebuild.
After week three, Kentucky had just blown a potential win to Florida, who now appears to be back in the national conversation. Arkansas, however, was coming off of an unimpressive win over Colorado State and was preparing for a narrow loss to San Jose State the following weekend. So Kentucky looked to be maintaining a certain level of respect in the SEC, and the Razorbacks were really struggling.
Four weeks later, Kentucky sits at 2-3 coming off of embarrassing losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina. Arkansas played their best game of the season recently against a top-25 Texas A&M team. So it is difficult to make heads or tails of where these teams are and how they will match up, especially with Kentucky’s quarterback woes.
The Wildcats lost third string quarterback Nik Scalzo to a knee injury in the preseason. Starter Terry Wilson went down on a dirty tackle in Week 2. And in Kentucky’s most recent loss to South Carolina, backup Sawyer Smith looked like he was being held together with masking tape.
Rumors have swirled in the last two weeks about Lynn Bowden playing quarterback for Kentucky moving forward. However, Sawyer Smith went on record after Wednesday’s practice is saying he feels good. So it is unclear who will be taking snaps on Saturday.
That is a good thing from a competitive standpoint, as Arkansas does not know who to prepare for. But it is also frustrating for fans who always want to know what is happening.
The fact remains that Arkansas has looked completely unimpressive this season. They may be the worst team in the SEC, but that does not mean they are not capable of winning on Saturday.
Their quarterback situation is a bit suspect as well. After starter Nick Starkel went down with an injury during the Texas A&M game, backup Ben Hicks came in and looked fantastic, throwing for 188 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Starkel had turned into a real liability throwing the football lately, so Hicks’ ability to take care of the ball really helped Arkansas’ offense find some stability.
It looks like Hicks may be the starter moving forward, and we all know Kentucky’s history with backup quarterbacks. The Razorbacks’ running game has struggled this year as well, and there is only one runner that has done any damage this season. If Kentucky can key on Rakeem Boyd and keep him in check, no other back on the roster has more than 150 rushing yards for the season.
Kentucky needs this win badly. Yes, they need to improve their record. But more importantly, this game is about hope for the rest of the season. If the Wildcats are unable to beat Arkansas, all of the their potential wins for the rest of the year become very doubtful. The thought of a bowl game becomes an almost impossible feat. And this entire season will seem like a giant step back.
No pressure, though, guys.