Posted: 7:00 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013
By Brandon Larrabee
Every team has a game in the first month or so that generally tells us, as the cliche goes, how good they really are. Sometimes, a team crashes so spectacularly or does so well in its first game that it's quickly clear how good the team is. Usually, it takes a little longer than that.
It's rare to have two teams both face an identity-defining game against each other, but that might be case for Arkansas and Rutgers. Both of them have winning records. Both of them have not faced much of anyone in terms of the opposition. And both of them are about to get into the meat of their conference schedules.
We all basically know the story of Arkansas right now -- uneven but largely dominating wins against Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern Miss, along with an uneven and closer-than-expected win against Samford. (Adding an element of mystery to Arkansas this week is the injury of Brandon Allen, who is a gametime decision.) Rutgers hasn't done much more to make it clear how good the Knights are. They've defeated Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan while dropping an opening week overtime game at Fresno State by one point. Strange things sometimes happen in the first week.
A win here would seem to validate one of these teams. If Arkansas gets the victory, the Razorbacks will have gone on a long road trip and beaten another BCS team (even if just that). And Rutgers could almost instantly remove the questions from the Fresno State loss with a win over even a lower-tier SEC team.
As near as I can tell from the early games, Arkansas has the better defense. In a game where neither team seems likely to light up the scoreboard, that's probably enough, and Arkansas gets some confidence before Texas A&M; comes to town.
Arkansas 17, Rutgers 10