LITTLE ROCK — Refining national material specifically for Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen was easy to do, but nigh impossible at other positions where the Razorbacks have many options.
The email at the heart of this idea included high-flying over-under numbers for six quarterbacks, six running backs and six wide receivers, but it was the way the data was tailor-made for the skills of Auburn’s Nick Marshall, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Baylor’s Bryce Petty that got my attention. For Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, and UCLA’s Brett Hundley, there is an over-under on passing yards, rushing yards and passing and rushing touchdowns.
Neither Petty nor Winston run much, so the over-under on those guys is strictly passing yards and passing touchdowns. As a true option quarterback, Marshall does not fit into a pigeonhole and his over-under numbers involve total passing and rushing yards and total passing and rushing touchdowns.
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen is more akin to Petty and Winston than any of the other four so there is no reason to establish a number for rushing yards.
Also a factor is that the half-dozen quarterbacks mentioned play for teams that are expected to win 10 or more and expectations for them far exceed those for Allen. For instance, he is not going to sniff the 3,474.5 passing yards and 34 1/2 touchdowns for Winston or the 3,700.5 yards and 29 1/2 touchdowns for Petty.
Still, much less production from Allen could still stand the Razorbacks in good stead.
Here are some reasonable over-under numbers for Allen:
• 55.6 percent completion rate. Last year, Allen’s completion percentage was 49.6. He was below 50 percent in each of the first five SEC games.
• 1,900 yards passing. Allen threw for 1,552 last year, but upping his completion percentage six points would make the number doable without a significant increase in pass attempts.
• Ten more touchdown passes than interceptions. In 11 games, Allen threw 13 TD passes, but suffered 10 interceptions. Sixteen TDs and six picks would work well.
Moving on, Arkansas has three productive ball carriers and a half-dozen unproven pass catchers.
Nationally, the over-under number for SEC running backs Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon, and Mike Davis ranges from 1,100.5 yards to 1,260.5 yards and 11.5 touchdowns to 13.5 touchdowns. In that group, Yeldon is the only one with serious competition for carries. At Arkansas, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams had 340 carries and 1,926 yards last year and both figures are likely to decline as Korliss Marshall gets more opportunities. A year ago, Marshall was 17 for 146, almost all in the last three games. He ended last Saturday’s scrimmage with a 57-yard run, prompting coach Bret Bielema to say that Marshall “has been given some things that are not normal in this world.’’
Alabama’s Amari Cooper is the only SEC receiver with over-under numbers — 8.5 touchdowns and 904.5 yards on receptions — and no Razorback will come close. In fact, with less than two weeks until the opener against Auburn, I can’t name either of the two receivers who will catch the most passes this season.
Contributions from Arkansas’ wide receivers were so meager last year that tight end Hunter Henry was a close second in receptions with 28, and fullback Kiero Small was fourth with 19.
The over-under for individual Razorbacks is hit-and-miss, but there is no guesswork in the turnover department where zero would be a significant accomplishment and improve Arkansas’ chances of winning. Last year, Tennessee was the only SEC team with more turnovers than Arkansas’ 23.
Nothing influences a game more than a lost fumble or an interception and nothing is more damaging to an underdog that needs to extend every possession. Exacerbating Arkansas’ situation was the defense’s inability to take the ball away, a shortcoming that led to a league-worst minus nine. A year ago, both Auburn and LSU were dead even in turnovers and they won 22 games between them.
Harry King is a sports columnist. His email is HLeonK42@gmail.com.