Razorback fans know their team is a lot better than their current 2-6 record, but it took this week for a lot of the sports betting public across the nation to discover the same.
That likely played a role in the spread for Arkansas vs Florida starting the week out at -6.5 Florida on Monday but then steadily dropping to -3.5 mark on BetSaracen, the official mobile sports wagering platform of the Saracen Casino Resort. UPDATE: By Saturday morning, it had dropped to -2.5. That’s a lot of movement.
Another likely reason for the drop is odds-makers don’t trust the Florida Gators and their head coach Billy Napier, whom many Florida football fans want to see get axed. They have been up and down all season, losing to Utah, then winning three in a row, then losing to Kentucky, then winning two more, before getting filleted vs No. 1 Georgia last week.
While the Gators’ defense has improved from the porous version that took the field last season, it has been regressing in the last three games, including a 38-14 win vs Vanderbilt and 41-39 win at South Carolina.
“The last three opponents have thrown for at least 275 yards, and that’s a little bit alarming,” Sean Kelley, the University of Florida’s play by play announcer, said on the most recent “Razorback Daily” podcast. “And when you talk about yards per play, something I think that matters, it’s 5.97 yards per play. So there’s been a little bit of slippage.”
On top of that, Florida is battling some injuries on that side of the ball which have also led to the point spread shrinking. Namely, the Gators’ leading tackler, linebacker Shemar James, has been declared out while defensive linemen Cam Jackson and Tyreak Sapp are both listed as questionable because of upper-body injuries.
Can Arkansas Football Take Advantage?
It’s unknown whether Arkansas is primed to take advantage or not given this will be the first game called by Kenny Guiton, the Hogs’ new interim offensive coordinator. Whereas Guiton’s predecessor Dan Enos called a gamut of plays so complex they bewildered his own players, Guiton and Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman have been tightening the playbook to focus on fewer plays and run a more up-tempo pace that’s closer to what Jefferson was used to in 2021 and 2022, before Enos arrived.
Enos called very few deep passes, but former Razorback star DJ Williams thinks he’ll use the prospect of more big plays to help get more buy in from his players.
“He’s going to lie a little bit to his guys,” Williams said on the 4th and 5 podcast. “He says, ‘Hey, we’re going to open it up. We’re going to take shots.’ He’s going to learn very quick why we haven’t been taking shots, all right, because we ain’t had time, but that’s going to get them gassed up. That’s going to get him pumped up.”
Therein lies the biggest problem for Arkansas. Their offensive line simply hasn’t been up to snuff this season. They have been terrible at blocking defensive linemen who mix it up, whether that be by flinching, twisting or stunting. Those issues killed Arkansas last year vs Liberty and Mississippi State and they are doing the same now.
About a month ago, here’s what Sam Pittman said about Ole Miss: “There was so much movement that we couldn’t stay in front of them. We couldn’t get basically some pry-backs and things like that could open some holes up. We just weren’t quick enough to stay in front of them.”
Arkansas vs Florida Possibilities
The same issues have persisted throughout much of the last three losses. Don’t expect Guiton to be a miracle worker here when it comes to Cody Kennedy’s unit.
However, Pittman said he would be more hands-on coaching the offensive line through the rest of the season. (For decades, Pittman was considered among the nation’s best offensive line coaches and indeed is still desired as that by at least two SEC fan bases.)
“We’ll see how much he’s going to step in as far as figuring out how to stop that and make Florida really bring pressure and not just get pressure with their front four,” Williams said. “Now, if that happens, we’re able to stop their front four, then they actually need to bring more people. Then you’re going to see that deep ball open up because you’re going to have more man-to-man situations without a lot of safety help.”
“So, it just starts up front.”
As it usually does in this game. However, all the unknowns in this particular 11 am showdown, including whether the Florida crowd will really show out when it’s a) an 11 am game in which they are supposed to wear all-black and b) many of them would like to see their team lose just so they can get rid of Billy Napier faster, make it an especially hard match up to call.
As Sean Kelley, the voice of the Gators puts it, “This is going to be some kind of a tilt on Saturday.”
It’s little wonder it has Vegas reeling a bit, he added. “I wouldn’t touch this game with a 10-foot pole. No way.”
More from DJ Williams below. At 5:20, he discusses an insane fan conspiracy involving RB AJ Green intentionally trying to get Jefferson hurt by whiffing on a blocking assignment:
Also, listen to the entire interview with Kelley here: