Commentary

Land mines for Stanford Cardinal, more

Statistical areas that could haunt Cardinal, Hogs and other preseason top 10 teams

Updated: August 11, 2011, 10:33 AM ET
By Ben Arledge | ESPN Insider
Andrew LuckKyle Terada/US PresswireWith some new offensive linemen, converting third downs could be tougher for Andrew Luck in 2011.

Every team in ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine's preseason top 25 poll made rank because they have lots of positive things going for them. But nobody's perfect, and in order to identify the things that could hold these teams back, we sent them through ESPN Insider's Eliminator model.

This week we'll examine five teams per day, picking out the statistical weakness that could trip up each team, and the three teams/games that could exploit them (the land-mine games, if you will). Each stat is drawn from our Eliminator model and thus is a category that correlates strongly to success in college football. The minimum benchmark met by each conference and BCS champ, and the average of past champs, is provided for each.

Today, we continue with the teams ranked No. 10 through No. 6.


10. Arkansas Razorbacks (10-3 in 2010)

Statistical Category: Rushing offense

BCS Benchmark: 4.68 yards per carry (5.3 average)

SEC Benchmark: 4.31 (5.1 average)

Arkansas 2010: 4.6

Yes, the Razorbacks were 37th in the nation in yards per carry last season, and yes, their Heisman contender running back, Knile Davis, returns.

Still, there is reason to be concerned. With the exception of the season opener against Tennessee Tech, Arkansas' running game got off to a miserable start last season. Against Georgia, Davis and the Razorbacks' other rushers picked up only 53 yards on 23 carries (2.3 ypc). It was not until Week 6 against Auburn that the ball started moving on the ground.

A similarly slow start in 2011 could cause trouble for the Razorbacks, who are breaking in a new (albeit talented) starting QB in Tyler Wilson, and three new starters on the offensive line. Having balance right from the start will be essential for a unit with this many new faces.

Land mines: at Alabama, Texas A&M, South Carolina

Arkansas gets Bama and Texas A&M back-to-back in Weeks 4 and 5. The Crimson Tide, led by Dont'a Hightower, were ninth in the nation last year in yards per carry allowed, and held Arkansas to only 64 yards rushing last season in a four-point win over the Hogs.

The Aggies also slowed the Razorbacks' rushing attack last season, though the Hogs still prevailed. The Gamecocks are plenty stingy against the run as well, ranking 12th in the nation last season in yards allowed per rush.