FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas rekindles an old Southwest Conference rivalry Saturday evening in Fort Worth, Texas, where the Razorbacks will face TCU.
Arkansas and TCU have not met since 1991. The teams have played 68 times, with the Hogs leading the all-time series 43-23-2.
The Razorbacks and Horned Frogs won their openers, but both teams struggled more than expected.
Here is SEC Country’s weekly look at five key things to watch in Arkansas’ game on Saturday.
Offensive line play
Arkansas’ updated depth chart Monday indicated that coaches will stick with the same five starting offensive linemen this weekend. We’ll see if that happens, but the Hogs must get better play from that unit.
TCU defensive ends Josh Carraway and James McFarland are standout players who could create major problems for Arkansas’ inexperienced O-line. TCU coach Gary Patterson — who calls plays on defense — has built his entire reputation on that side of the ball.
Yes, TCU struggled defensively against South Dakota State in its opener. That would seem to make this game more winnable for Arkansas. All of that becomes irrelevant if the Razorbacks offensive linemen make the same mistakes they made against Louisiana Tech last weekend.
The Bulldogs sacked quarterback Austin Allen 4 times, and the Hogs averaged 2.7 yards per rush. Numbers like that almost certainly would equal defeat Saturday at TCU.
Kenny Hill v. Arkansas, Part II
Quarterback Kenny Hill threw for 386 yards and 4 touchdowns two years ago, when he led Texas A&M to an overtime victory against Arkansas. Now the TCU quarterback, Hill will hope for similar results against a familiar defense.
The Horned Frogs have boasted one of the nation’s most electric, prolific offenses during the last two seasons with Trevone Boykin behind center. This year, TCU is replacing almost all of its stars, but the dynamic system of co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie remains intact.
The secondary was one of the biggest question marks for Arkansas entering this season. The success Louisiana Tech had last weekend has some Hogs fans rightly concerned moving forward. The loss of junior Kevin Richardson II for the season doesn’t help.
Can Kenny Hill become “Kenny Trill” against Arkansas yet again? The answer could determine who wins this game.
Arkansas linebackers Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw played virtually every defensive snap last season. This year, coaches said getting those guys some relief was paramount to an improved defense.
Saturday against Louisiana Tech, the only linebackers who registered defensive snaps were Ellis and Greenlaw. It’s clear that coaches don’t believe those other guys — Dwayne Eugene, De’Jon Harris, Khalia Hackett and Josh Williams — are prepared to make a difference. Somebody — anybody — is going to have to play moving forward.
Maybe that means giving redshirting true freshmen like Giovanni LaFrance or Alexy Jean-Baptise a chance, or even putting Randy Ramsey back at linebacker. Ellis and Greenlaw can’t go through another season like 2015.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos called Allen’s play against Louisiana Tech “average.”
He’s going to have to be better than average for Arkansas to have a chance against the Horned Frogs.
Yes, there were dropped balls. Yes, he was under lots of pressure because of poor pass protection. But Allen made costly mistakes. Both of his interceptions resulted in Louisiana Tech touchdowns. The second pick shifted the momentum back to the Bulldogs after Arkansas had taken hold of it.
You can survive — albeit barely — a few interceptions against Louisiana Tech. Even one such mistake against TCU could be fatal.
Sprinkle on top?
Jeremy Sprinkle had the game-winning touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against Louisiana Tech. He finished with 3 receptions for 19 yards, though.
Sprinkle is one of the most talented players on the roster. His 6 touchdown receptions — as the No. 2 tight end — prove just how valuable he can be. The guy is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. It’s unclear why he wasn’t involved more against Louisiana Tech, but that’s going to have to change.
So why not against TCU?