Arkansas football is just 89 days away.
To help get you through the long, difficult summer months, SEC Country has several cool features and series planned. That begins today, with the first of a four-part series looking at each of the Razorbacks’ non-conference opponents.
We start with Louisiana Tech, which visits Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday, Sept. 3.
Arkansas and Louisiana Tech have only met twice previously, in 1996 and 1997. Both games were played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock and won by the Razorbacks, although the second game was a tight, 17-13 Arkansas win.
Louisiana Tech 2015 recap
Louisiana Tech is no slouch when it comes to Group of 5 FBS opponents. The Bulldogs went 9-4 last season with a 6-2 record in Conference USA play. They were right in the thick of the Conference USA West Division championship until the final game of the season, when they lost to Southern Mississippi.
The Bulldogs beat Arkansas State 47-28 in the New Orleans Bowl.
The 2015 season was Skip Holtz’s third with the Bulldogs and his 11th overall as a head coach. He has a 22-17 record at Louisiana Tech and a 141-76 overall record including his previous stops at East Carolina and South Florida.
The Bulldogs’ offense
Louisiana Tech must replace running back Kenneth Dixon and quarterback Jeff Driskel — selected in the fourth and sixth rounds of the NFL Draft, respectively — from last year’s team. Dixon rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons with the Bulldogs for a career total of 4,483.
Driskel, who transferred from Florida for his senior season, threw for 4,026 yards, 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his lone season with Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs do return their top two receivers from last year’s team in Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson. They combined for 2,056 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago.
Redshirt senior Ryan Higgins is taking over the quarterback spot for Driskel. He completed 27 of 34 pass attempts for 469 yards and five touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ spring game.
Boston Scott is the favorite to become Louisiana Tech’s leading rusher in Dixon’s place. He rushed for 275 yards on 34 carries last season.
The Bulldogs’ defense
The big name that Louisiana Tech needs to replace defensively is tackle Vernon Butler, who went to the Carolina Panthers as the 30th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He recorded 10 tackles-for-loss and three sacks last season.
Butler was the first Louisiana Tech player to be selected in the first round since 1999.
But Butler isn’t all that Louisiana Tech has to replace. He is actually one of eight defensive starters — including three in the secondary — the Bulldogs lost from last season.
Sophomore safety Theron Williams is a young Louisiana Tech player to watch, as is sophomore defensive end Jaylon Ferguson.
Reasons for confidence
The Razorbacks will have the clear talent advantage in this game. And in a game featuring two new starting quarterbacks, the advantage obviously goes to the guy — Austin Allen — who is playing at home.
With Louisiana Tech having to replace so many key defensive starters, this could be a good game for Allen, and inexperienced running backs like Devwah Whaley and the three new starting offensive linemen to gain some confidence in a comfortable setting.
Reasons for concern
Louisiana Tech can be a tougher-than-expected test for Power 5 teams. Last September, the Bulldogs traveled to Kansas State and took the Wildcats into triple overtime before losing 39-33.
Overlook Skip Holtz’s squad at your own peril.