It's not easy to find anyone who gives troubled Arkansas much of a chance against mighty Oklahoma in Monday night's Orange Bowl.

"After looking at them and then looking at us, I wouldn't give us much of a chance either," quipped Arkansas coach Lou Holtz. "But," he added quickly, "I believe in my football team and I don't want anybody feeling sorry for us."

It has been difficult for Holtz to prepare his team, following suspension of three players, and their ill-fated attempt to be reinstated.

The team was in mental disarray until the three suspended players dropped their case Thursday, but no one knows how it has affected the team.

"It's brought us closer together, that's all," said Arkansas quarterback Ron Calcagni.

"We came down here in a lot of controversy and it hasn't endeared us to many people," Holtz said. "But this team has overcome a lot of adversity and we are ready to play. Unfortunately, I see Oklahoma is ready, too."

The Sooners always look ready to play, even walking through their hotel lobby.

They have a high-powered wishbone offense that led the nation in rushing and a super defense.

Oklahoma received a scare at Saturday's practice. Quarterback Thomas Lott, who makes the wishbone work, pulled a hamstring muscle in his right leg. The injury is not believed to be serious and coach Barry Switzer said Lott will start Monday night, "and will go as long as he can."

The three suspended Arkansas players are leading rusher Ben Cowins, leading receiver Donny Bobo and reserve running back Michael Forrest. They will be missed, but, as Holtz said, "Our defense and our kicking game got us here and they are intact.

Oklahoma blends size, strength, speed, quickness and depth to grind through its opponents; Arkansas relies on quickness, especially on defense.

"They aren't as physical as some teams we played and that will make it difficult for them to stop us up the middle," said Oklahoma tackle Karl Baldischwiler.

Arkansas assistant coach John Mitchell said, "Big games are on defense and with the kicking game, so I expect a real defensive game."

Lott isn't buying that.

"I don't think it will be a defensive struggle or that this game will be decided by any field goal," he said. "I know we are going to go down the field and get some points."

Switzer, who calls his Sooner offense, "probably the best I have ever had," expects it to score a lot of points, too. He admits that the Sooners are not the same invicible bunch they were the last four games of the regular season, when they outscored the opposition, 193-55, and were seemingly never extended.

"I don't think what we accomplished since we've been here in Miami has gotten us back to where we were when we ended the season five weeks ago," Switzer said. "We are playing as well then as any team could and you can't lay off four or five weeks and expect to come back where you were."

Despite the suspensions, Arkansas has an offense capable of scoring points, mainly because the Razorbacks have Calcagni. He completed 53 per cent of his passes this season for 1,147 yards and 10 touchdowns and finished second to Cowins in rushing with 546 yards and a 4.4 average.

"We'll put some points on the board," he said.

Cowins' place in the starting line up will be taken by freshman Trent Bryant, a 9.6 sprinter, and Bobo's position will go to another freshman, Gary Stiggers, a 9.4 sprinter. Senior Barnabas White, a 9.3 sprinter, will recieve Bryant.

"We'll miss them (Cowins and Bobo) but no one or two players win or lose a game," Calcagni said. "We have a lot of pride. We don't plan to go out there and be embarrassed or humiliated. A lot of people say! we don't have a chance. But we know we can beat Oklahoma."

Oklahoma and Arkansas have 10-1 records, both having lost on No. 1-ranked and undefeated Texas. The Longhorns beat the Sooners, 13-6, and the Razorbacks, 19-9.

Oklahoma was ranked second and Arkansas sixth by both wire service polls at the end of the regular season.

Monday night's game will be the first time in 51 years Arkansas and Oklahoma have played each other. For the Razorbacks, this will be only the fourth time they have played on grass since 1970. They lost the previous three.

Arkansas kicker-punter Steve Little holds the NCAA record for field goals in a career with 53 and for kick scoring with 280 points. He shares the NCAA record with a 67-yard field goal and has averaged 443 yards a punt this season. Of his 72 kickoffs, only nine have been returned.