Continuing SEC Country’s look at Arkansas’ 2016 non-conference opponents, here is a quick glance at TCU, a Big 12 program that hosts the Razorbacks at 6 p.m. CT on Sept. 10.
We kicked off this series last week with a look at Louisiana Tech, which you can view here.
As old Southwest Conference foes, Arkansas and TCU have met 68 times previously — the Hogs hold a 43-23-2 record in those games — but haven’t played since Oct. 5, 1991.
Arkansas won that game 22-21 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The game also pits Arkansas coach Bret Bielema against TCU coach Gary Patterson in their first game against one another since the 2011 Rose Bowl, when Bielema was still Wisconsin’s head coach. TCU won that game 21-19 to complete an undefeated season.
TCU 2015 recap
TCU entered the 2015 season ranked No. 2 in the country, considered to be a serious national championship contender. That status didn’t change through the first two months of the season. The Horned Frogs held onto a top-five ranking until a 20-point loss at Oklahoma State in early November all but killed their title hopes.
Still, TCU’s only other loss all season came in a 30-29 defeat at Oklahoma — which ended up as the Big 12 champion and in the College Football Playoff — and that is despite playing much of the final two months of the season without (or with a hobbled) quarterback Trevone Boykin.
Boykin’s arrest just before the Alamo Bowl seemed to crush TCU’s chances against Oregon, and then the Ducks jumped out to a 31-0 lead at halftime.
But Patterson changed his shirt before the third quarter for luck, and it seemed to work. The Horned Frogs rallied after halftime to pull of an incredible, 47-41 come-from-behind victory in overtime and finished the season ranked No. 7 in the final AP Poll.
The Horned Frogs offense
The biggest, most obvious question TCU must answer is at the quarterback position. Boykin became one of the nation’s best signal-callers in the last two seasons and finished fourth in 2014 Heisman Trophy voting.
Either Kenny Hill or Forest Sawyer will be the Horned Frogs starting quarterback in 2016. Patterson declined to name a starter following spring football practices.
Some might remember Hill as the one-time heir apparent to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Hill was considered an early-season 2014 Heisman Trophy contender after he threw for 511 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the season opener against South Carolina.
Arkansas fans might remember Hill as the guy who threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and overtime and led Texas A&M to a come-from-behind, 35-28 victory over the Razorbacks that season.
After that game, though, Hill and the Aggies went on a three-game losing streak and he eventually lost the job to freshman Kyle Allen. Hill transferred to TCU after that season and sat out in 2015, per NCAA rules.
Sawyer, meanwhile, has only appeared in four career games — all last season as a freshman — and completed 11 of 27 pass attempts for 155 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
But the Horned Frogs don’t just have a quarterback to replace. TCU must also find a new lead rusher to replace Aaron Green, plus someone to take over for Josh Doctson as the new top wideout in the Horned Frogs spread offense.
Doctson was picked by the Washington Redskins in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
TCU must also replace four of its five starters on the offensive line.
The Horned Frogs defense
While TCU has a ton to replace on the offensive side of the ball, defense is a different story. Patterson made his name as a defensive-minded coach and remains the play caller on that side of the ball, and boy, does he have a lot of experience with which to work in 2016.
Up front, TCU returns Josh Carraway — who led the Horned Frogs in sacks last season — plus James McFarland, who was the team’s 2014 sack leader and missed all of last season with a broken toe.
TCU’s linebacker corps returns players like Travin Howard, Ty Summers and Montrel Wilson, who were among the team’s leading tacklers in 2015.
The Horned Frogs secondary probably is their most concerning unit on the defensive side of the ball, with key players Derrick Kindred and Corry O’Meally lost to graduation, plus Julius Lewis suffered an injury during winter workouts that will cost him the 2016 season.
Senior safety Denzel Johnson — fourth on the team with 79 tackles last season — provides great leadership in the defensive backfield, but that will be tested with lots of inexperience around him.
Reasons for confidence
Arkansas’ defense will face a TCU offense still trying to establish an identity with a new quarterback, new lead rusher, new lead wideout and an entirely different offensive line. There could be lots of opportunities to force turnovers.
Reasons for concern
TCU’s defense should be stout, and that is definitely a reason for concern with the Hogs trotting out a brand new starting quarterback whose only start will have been against Louisiana Tech at home.
Plus, if Kenny Hill ends up becoming TCU’s starting QB, he will be playing at home and have the confidence of someone who has beaten the Razorbacks before — because he has.