Though Malzahn has added tricks to Arkansas's repertoire, he hasn't turned the offense into the pass-happy attack some envisioned. "I'm smart enough to know that with the kind of running backs we have here, we need to put the ball in their hands," he says. "There's no doubt that this year the offense has to be built around our ground game." At the forefront of that rushing attack is McFadden, a 6'2", 213-pound sophomore who with his varied heroics has probably earned himself a trip to New York City as one of the Heisman Trophy finalists. In addition to running for 1,303 yards and 12 touchdowns, he helped the Hogs avoid an upset against surprisingly stubborn Mississippi State with a 92 yard kickoff return for a TD. "If there's a better running back in the country, I don't know who it is," says Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer.
If there's a more worthy opponent for Ohio State in the national championship game, it's hard to imagine who it would be, provided, of course, the Razorbacks survive their next two challenging games. "It took time for people to take us seriously because of the way we started," says McFadden. "But take a good look at things right now. Who's playing better than us?"
Even with the new clock rules, which have reduced the number of plays, Arkansas has been more productive on offense through its first 11 games this year than it was while going 4--7 last season. Most impressive has been the Razorbacks' improvement in yards per rush and per passing attempt.
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Read the Hot Button from Phil Taylor every Wednesday at SI.com.