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Toledo Rockets vs. No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks football preview

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Toledo Rockets will hit the road this Saturday against the nationally ranked Arkansas Razorbacks, in what effectively will serve as the Rockets' second season opener.  Toledo led FCS opponent Stony Brook, 16-7 at halftime a week ago, when the game was officially called due to dangerous weather conditions.  All statistics from the Stony Brook game were wiped clean and the game was declared a "no contest."

The highly touted Razorbacks will look to continue momentum heading into conference play following a convincing 48-13 victory over the UTEP Miners in their home opener in Fayetteville.   The game against the Rockets will however be played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock as Arkansas continues their commitment moving forward to play one game a season in the state capital.

Toledo will once again be shorthanded this Saturday as all-conference running back Kareem Hunt and starting defensive end Allen Covington serve the final game of a two game suspension for violation of team rules.  With Hunt on the bench, significant pressure will fall on the shoulders of starting quarterback Phillip Ely and reserve running back Damion Jones-More, who replaced opening day starter Terry Swanson after Swanson left the opener with an apparent ankle injury.   Unofficially Moore gained 70 yards on just 5 carries against Stony Brook. The shorthanded Rockets will be facing an Arkansas defense that finished 10th in the country last season in total defense and held UTEP to just 204 yards last week.

While the challenge facing the Toledo offense is significant, the task of stopping the Arkansas offense will be just as formidable for a Rocket defense that has historically struggled against top line opponents.  Senior quarterback Brandon Allen leads the Razorbacks, after showing remarkable efficiency in their opener completing 14-18 throws for 308 yards and 4 touchdowns.    There will be some familiarity for the Toledo players and staff when Arkansas has the ball as former Central Michigan Head Coach Dan Enos is now calling the plays for the Razorbacks.  Enos was 0-5 against the Rockets as the head coach of the Chippewas and 0-3 against Matt Campbell.

Under third year head coach Bret Bielema the Razorbacks have built a reputation for possessing a hardnosed physical running attack.  A foot injury to starting running back Jonathan Williams, who rushed for almost 1200 yards in 2014, will likely sideline him for the entire 2015 season has opened the door for junior Alex Collins to take over the bulk of the carries.  Collins himself rushed for 1100 yards in 2014 and scampered for 127 in the opener against UTEP on just 12 carries.

This will be the third straight season Toledo will take on an opponent for the SEC following defeats on the road at Florida and at home to Missouri in 2013 and 2014.  The "experts" have placed Arkansas as a 21 point favorite over the visiting Rockets, who will have their hands full stopping the potent Arkansas offense and moving the ball against the formidable Razorback defense.