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Arkansas Razorbacks 24, Tennessee Volunteers 20: Hogs Survive, Vols Go Down in Critical Game

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Neither of these teams is likely to be in Atlanta when the regular season ends, but there was at least a chance to preserve some hope

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

In the preseason, Saturday's game between Arkansas and Tennessee was seen as a contest to decide which dark horse would make the most noise, or perhaps (among the bold) a preview of the SEC Championship Game. By the time it rolled around, though, the Razorbacks and the Volunteers were essentially fighting to see whose season would come to a premature end. And it was Tennessee that went down, 24-20, in what ended up being one of the more entertaining conference games of the weekend.

It happened in a heartbreakingly familiar way for the Vols. A 96-yard kickoff return to start the game and a 11-play, 89-yard drive on the next Tennessee possession put the home team up by 14. But already, there were rumblings online and Twitter. Tennessee had done this before and come up repeatedly short, allowing teams back into games that should have been out of reach.

Sure enough, Arkansas started to claw back. On their second drive of the game, the Razorbacks went 75 yards on four plays -- including a 52-yards pass from Brandon Allen to Drew Morgan -- to cut the Tennessee lead in half. On the fourth play of the second quarter, Allen connected with Dominique Reed for a 33-yard touchdown, and the game was tied. The teams traded field goals by the end of the half, and then Arkansas took the lead for good on an 80-yard drive to start the third quarter.

Allen was not particularly accurate, but when he hit his targets, he and the Hogs receivers made sure it counted; he finished 11-of-24 for 219 yards and a touchdown. Alex Collins continued to do his part to make 2015 the Year of the RB in the SEC, finishing with 154 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Rawleigh Williams added 100 yards on 14 rushing attempts. Arkansas finished with 494 yards of total offense, and the faintest of pulses in the race for the SEC West, at least mathematically. In all likelihood, the Razorbacks won't be in Atlanta, but they can at least prevent the season from being a complete bust.

For Tennessee, which was limited to 365 yards of total offense, it's hard to see a path forward to anything more than as nice a bowl as they can get to. They have two conference losses before facing Georgia or traveling to Alabama, all of which will happen in the next three weeks. There are several winnable games on the back end of the conference slate, but anything more than 4-4 is difficult to see, and that's only if Butch Jones doesn't lose the team if the Vols start out 0-4 in the league. At this point, Tennessee is simply looking to avoid a season that finishes as disappointingly as most of their games have this year.