FORT WORTH, Texas — Arkansas hits the road for the first time this season with a Saturday evening game against No. 15 TCU inside Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The game reunites old Southwest Conference rivals and will be seen as one of the better Week 2 matchups in college football.
Both Arkansas and TCU opened their respective 2016 campaigns with less-than-stellar performances at home. The Razorbacks narrowly slipped past Louisiana Tech 21-20, while the Horned Frogs’ defense struggled with FCS opponent South Dakota State in a 59-41 win.
Here’s a quick look at Arkansas and TCU at each position group.
Arkansas: Junior Austin Allen looked pretty solid for the most part in his first career start against Louisiana Tech, although his two interceptions were ugly and both ultimately resulted in Bulldog touchdowns. He will have to be better in Fort Worth for the Hogs to have a chance.
TCU: Former Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill made his first start for TCU last weekend and played pretty well after some first-half struggles. His dual-threat playmaking ability makes him especially dangerous in the Horned Frogs’ dynamic offensive system.
Arkansas: Sophomore Rawleigh Williams III recorded 24 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown in the season opener, while senior Kody Walker added six touches. Highly-touted true freshmen Devwah Whaley and T.J. Hammonds were non-factors last week, but both will make the trip to Fort Worth and could be involved.
TCU: The Frogs’ leading rusher against South Dakota State was junior Kyle Hicks, who rushed for 59 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
Arkansas: Seniors Keon Hatcher and Drew Morgan are the Hogs’ top two wideouts and both were solid against Louisiana Tech. Senior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle only managed 3 catches in the opener, but one of them was the game-winning touchdown. Sprinkle has the talent to be one of the country’s best at his position.
TCU: The Horned Frogs have to find a way to replace the production of superstar wideout Josh Doctson — now in the NFL with Washington — and so far the Frog who appears most poised to be the team’s top pass catcher is junior college transfer Taj Williams. He caught 11 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown against South Dakota State. Sophomore KaVontae Turpin had 7 catches for 62 yards. Sophomore Jaelan Austin and junior Emanuel Porter could also be solid players, and the Frogs added LSU transfer John Diarse to the mix this season as well.
Arkansas: The Hogs’ first-team unit seemed to struggle against Louisiana Tech, but Arkansas coaches apparently won’t make any changes in Week 2. Senior left tackle Dan Skipper and junior center Frank Ragnow are good players, but the jury is still out on the three new starters.
TCU: The Horned Frogs’ offensive line brought back much more overall experience than did the Razorbacks. Four of the five TCU starting O-linemen entered this season with at least five career starts. TCU allowed no sacks and averaged more than 6 yards per carry in Week 1.
Arkansas: The Razorback defensive line played well against Louisiana Tech and is led by senior All-America candidate Deatrich Wise Jr., who is projected by some as a first-round NFL Draft pick in 2017. The D-line is Arkansas’ best, most experienced position group.
TCU: Senior defensive ends Josh Carraway and James McFarland have combined for 21.5 career sacks and both are all-conference talents. Senior tackle Aaron Curry is a Nebraska transfer who made eight starts last season for the Frogs.
Arkansas: Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw were the only two Razorback linebackers to be on the field for a defensive snap against Louisiana Tech, a scary thing when you consider that linebacker depth was considered a major concern entering the season. Ellis and Greenlaw both are very good players, but they must get some relief from the younger linebackers.
TCU: Both starting linebackers — Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson — are converted safeties, which makes them valuable when the Frogs face typical Big 12 offenses. Howard led TCU with 105 tackles last season but had an emergency appendectomy that caused him to miss most of fall camp. Second-teamer Ty Summers was third on the team last season with 86 tackles.
Arkansas: The Razorback corners have been hit hard by the injury bug since the beginning of August, with senior DJ Dean missing most of fall camp with a hamstring injury and sophomore Britto Tutt’s ACL tear. Junior nickelback Kevin Richardson II was lost for the season with a pectoral tear against Louisiana Tech. Richardson’s injury is causing coaches to shuffle things around. Sophomore strong safety Santos Ramirez struggled against the Bulldogs, causing coaches to open that competition back up this week.
TCU: The Horned Frogs allowed South Dakota State to throw for 333 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions last week. TCU’s secondary is full of new starters, meaning there could be some potential for Allen and his group of talented receivers to make some big plays.
Arkansas: Kicker Cole Hedlund had some memorable misses last year and didn’t get any opportunities to kick field goals against Louisiana Tech. Punter Toby Baker averaged 47.5 yards on four punts against the Bulldogs. The Hogs haven’t returned a punt for a touchdown since 2011, or a kickoff for a score since 2014.
TCU: Both kicker Ryan Graf and punter Adam Nunez are freshmen and were solid in the opener, although neither was asked to do much. KaVontae Turpin returns both kicks and punts, and he brought back a punt 81 yards for a score last week. It was his second career punt-return touchdown. He ranked second in the Big 12 — and 14th nationally — in kick-return average last season.
TCU’s puzzling defensive performance against South Dakota State last weekend definitely made this game look more winnable for Arkansas. The Hogs might well be able to score enough points to keep the game competitive for a while, but can they score enough to actually win?
The Horned Frogs have averaged 44.8 points per game since co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie installed their high-powered, up-tempo system. It’s tough to imagine the Arkansas offense we saw last week against Louisiana Tech coming anywhere close to that number, especially on the road and against a much better defense.