Continuing SEC Country’s look at Arkansas’ 2016 non-conference opponents, here is a glance at Texas State, which visits Fayetteville, Ark., at 7:30 p.m. (ET) Sept. 17.
Texas State is entering its fifth season as a Football Bowl Subdivision program and its fourth in the Sun Belt Conference. Arkansas has never met the Bobcats before on the gridiron.
The Bobcats are under new coach Everett Withers, who spent the last two seasons as the coach at James Madison. He is also known for spending the 2011 season as North Carolina’s interim coach following Butch Davis’ July firing.
Texas State 2015 recap
Texas State had its worst season as an FBS program last season, going 3-9 with wins over Prairie View A&M, South Alabama and Louisiana-Monroe. The Bobcats dropped their final game of the season at Arkansas State in a 55-17 shellacking and finished 10th out of 11 teams in the Sun Belt Conference.
The 3-9 campaign came after two straight seasons with at least a .500 record.
Dennis Franchione — the former Alabama and Texas A&M coach — retired after the disappointing 2015 season, his fifth with the Bobcats, and gave way to Withers.
Withers led James Madison to consecutive nine-win seasons before taking the Texas State job.
In his one season as an FBS head coach — the 2011 interim run at North Carolina — Withers led the Tar Heels to a 7-6 record and an Independence Bowl appearance.
The Bobcats offense
The Bobcats return just four starters on offense and must replace their three leading receivers — C.J. Best, Jafus Gaines and Brandon Smith — as well as leading rusher Robert Lowe, who rushed for 915 yards and 7 touchdowns last season.
Texas State does, though, return quarterback Tyler Jones, a dual-threat signal caller who threw for 2,517 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 593 yards and 10 more scores in 2015.
Following the Bobcats’ spring game in April, Withers told the San Marcos Daily Record that “Tyler Jones did about as good as he could do with not a whole lot of protection today,” and added that, “we’re not very good on the offensive line.”
The Bobcats defense
Texas State returns five starters on the defensive side of the ball, but that side of the ball is going to need substantial improvement in 2016 if the Bobcats are going to have any shot at earning more victories than last season.
The Bobcats defense allowed opponents to rack up 522 yards of offense and 39.2 points per game in 2016, and only had 3 interceptions.
The fact that Texas State opponents averaged more than 250 rushing yards per game last season should be especially exciting for Bret Bielema and Arkansas, given the type of offense they like to run.
Reasons for confidence
There are plenty. Given Arkansas’ overwhelming talent advantage and the rebuilding Withers must do to even get Texas State competitive in the Sun Belt Conference, this game is virtually guaranteed to be a blowout Razorbacks victory.
But beyond that, this game could also be especially beneficial to Arkansas’ younger, less experienced players — in particular, quarterback Austin Allen. The Razorbacks will be coming off a really tough game at TCU, so a shot of confidence for guys like Allen could be vital, especially if Arkansas comes up short in Fort Worth.
Reasons for concern
Ummm. … I really, honestly can’t think of any.