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With a little explosiveness, Arkansas football can be dangerous again

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The Razorbacks are efficient, but they need big plays, too.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the season, Arkansas was a popular sleeper pick tin the SEC West. The Razorbacks had gotten back on track in 2014, finished 6-6 and demolished Texas in a bowl game. The 2015 season was supposed to be the launching pad to college football's elite.

Then Arkansas lost to Toledo ... and Texas Tech ...  and Texas A&M. With the rest of a brutal SEC slate to come, most wrote off the Razorbacks as serious contenders for the SEC West crown.

Winning the SEC West is always going to be hard, and it's likely out of the equation this year, but Arkansas began its slow road back to relevancy with a nice win at Tennessee on Saturday. The 2-3 record doesn't look great to many Razorback fans, who probably expected to be 4-1 at worst at this point, but the season is salvageable.

The computers already believe in Arkansas, with F/+ ranking the Razorbacks 30th in the country. But even though the offense has had some off moments -- particularly in the 16-12 loss to Toledo -- it's actually one of the best offenses in the country from an efficiency standpoint. Arkansas has the fourth-most efficient offense in the country, according to S&P+, running a successful play on more than half of its snaps. That's impressive, and it's how the Razorbacks were able to grind out 24-20 win at Tennessee.

It's easy to look at the totals and be fooled, but Arkansas plays slow, and it knows how to grind out opponents on offense. The problem is that putting together a whole game's worth of successful plays can be challenging, even for the most efficient teams. It also helps to be explosive and eat up big chunks of yards at once.

Arkansas is a run-heavy team, and while it would help to stretch the field in the passing game, achieving an explosive running game is the most attainable goal. After all, the Razorbacks were plenty explosive last year.

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Arkansas was 13th nationally last season in rushing explosiveness, but ranks 118th nationally in the same category this year. If the Razorbacks were even close to as explosive this year as they were last year, they'd likely be en route to the outstanding season many expected, particularly given how efficient the running game has been.

Year Rushing efficiency rank Rushing explosiveness rank 30+ runs per 200 carries
2014 42 13 3.23
2015 8 118 2

If the Razorbacks are going to get back to their explosive ways, now would be a good time to do it with a trip to Alabama coming up this week. The Crimson Tide are too good to grind out yards against for an entire game and expect to win. At some point, Arkansas is going to need a quick drive or an explosive play to score.