These two teams are an ideal reference if college football fans needed a reminder how unpredictable a season can be. Arkansas (3-5) faded quickly after starting the season in the top 10 while Tulsa (7-1) soared and is now knocking on the door of the Top 25.
The Golden Hurricane started the season with a loss against Iowa State and have rattled off seven straight victories since. They are now receiving votes in both major polls, giving them a chance to crack the BCS rankings in the near future.
Things haven't gone nearly as well for the Razorbacks. Hopes were high due to a high-flying passing attack led by Tyler Wilson, but disappointment has quickly overrun the team and its diehard fanbase after watching their chances slip away.
It makes for an interesting clash on Saturday as the more talented Razorbacks take on the red-hot Golden Hurricane. Here's a look at the vital information for the game followed by a preview and prediction.
Where: Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark.
When: Saturday, Nov. 3 at 12:21 p.m. ET
Watch: SEC Network and ESPN3.com
Listen: KRMG 740 AM (Tulsa) or KABZ 103.7 FM (Arkansas)
Betting Line: Arkansas -6 (Vegas Insider)
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Tulsa: Cody Green (questionable, shoulder) and Keyarris Garrett (questionable, illness)
Arkansas: No injuries to report.
Key Storyline: Can Tulsa keep its extended winning streak alive?
Even though Tulsa has been on quite a roll lately, it's important to point out four of its last five wins came by a single score. So it's not like the Golden Hurricane have been blowing opponents out every week. They have been squeaking by.
For Arkansas, the game presents an opportunity. Just like all non-contenders at this point in the season, the focus shifts to playing the role of spoiler. Ending Tulsa's winning streak would at least give them some momentum heading into the final games.
The Razorbacks are favored for a reason. They are still the better overall team, but it's been impossible to pick out which weeks they are going to play up to their potential. That means this game will probably go right down to the wire.
Arkansas, which was considered a strong BCS contender back in August, watched its dreams fade away at some point during a four-game losing streak earlier in the season. Now the team is simply watching as other SEC schools battle it out.
On the flip side, Tulsa still has a chance to crash the rankings. Beating the Razorbacks—even in their current state—would give them the marquee victory they have been looking for in order to make an impact with the voters.
The story would obviously be a lot more appealing if the Golden Hurricane would have knocked off the Cyclones in Week 1, but they still have a chance to earn a rankings spot before season's end.
What They Are Saying
Bill Haisten of Tulsa World reports the status of quarterback Cody Green remains unclear as head coach Bill Blankenship waits to check on his progress.
"Dave (TU head trainer Dave Polanski) says he's on progress, but until I see it with my eyes, I can't affirm that Cody is ready because he hasn't done it yet," Blankenship said. "As we speak today, I haven't seen Cody throw like he's going to have to throw. But according to the trainer, he's where he needs to be."
Arkansas head coach John Smith complimented his play and expects them to bounce back before season's end, according to Robbie Neiswanger of the Arkansas News.
"They have to this point shown great character, great class," Smith said. "They’ve done everything we’ve asked and they’ve continued to battle and they are going to do the same. They’re not going to start pointing fingers and any of that stuff."
Tulsa Player To Watch: Alex Singleton
Singleton isn't the team's leading rusher—he ranks third with 495 yards—but when the Golden Hurricane are in the red zone, everybody knows he's going to get the call. He has found the end zone 15 times in eight games.
The senior has now scored 34 touchdowns over the past three seasons despite rushing for less than 1,200 yards. He's not the type of back Tulsa can rely on every down, but there's no doubting his ability to power across the goal line when the offense is in close.
In other words, when the Arkansas defense is on the field it should prepare for a steady dose of inside runs. If the Razorbacks aren't ready to fight for every yard, he will add another multi-touchdown game to his tally.
Arkansas Player To Watch: Tyler Wilson
Wilson looks like a professional quarterback. He stands tall in the pocket and can deliver countless strikes when the offensive line protects him. The biggest concern is the fact he hasn't been able to showcase any type of consistency.
Moreover, when he has an off game it's normally really bad. If you look at his performance this season, he's had three good games and four he'd probably rather forget. And that's not what coaches want to see from their most important player.
Wilson should be able to zero in on the Golden Hurricane defense, which is allowing almost 26 points per game. He will always look back at his senior season as an opportunity lost, however, given where the team was when it started.
Key Matchup: Tulsa running game vs. Arkansas rush defense
Tulsa isn't looking to trick anybody. It's going to run early and often, hoping its three-headed rushing attack will eventually wear down the opposing defense. Arkansas shouldn't be expecting anything different on Sunday.
That's probably good news for the Razorbacks, who ranks fifth in the SEC in run defense. Having faced powerful rushing attacks like Alabama should have them prepared for what they will face against Tulsa and should give them a slight edge.
Even though the college football spotlight will likely shine on other games this weekend, this game should be one of the most entertaining. Look for Arkansas to pull it out thanks to strong run defense in the second half.
Arkansas 38, Tulsa 34
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