FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No. 24 Arkansas will try to keep its positive momentum Saturday evening when it hosts Texas State inside Donald W. Reynolds Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).
To get you ready for the game, SEC Country’s Arkansas beat writers are providing their picks for players to watch and making bold predictions.
Players to watch
Redshirt freshman QB Ty Storey: Arkansas fans finally might get to see their backup quarterback in action for the first time. Storey — who won the right to back up starter Austin Allen during fall camp — hasn’t appeared in a football game since his senior season at Charleston (Ark.) High two years ago. Most folks — myself included — thought he would make his college debut two weeks ago against Louisiana Tech, but that game ended up being closer than just about anyone expected. If the Hogs can build a big lead, Storey may play the entire fourth quarter and maybe even some of the third. Beating up on a Sun Belt team in mop-up duty certainly isn’t going to show us all of what Storey is made of, but it will be good for him to get under the bright lights and play in front of that big crowd for the first time.
— Jason Kersey
Freshman LB De’Jon Harris: Coaches raved about the freshman in fall camp, more than any other freshman on the roster. We haven’t seen him yet. Arkansas is still searching for a third linebacker behind starters Dre Greenlaw and Brooks Ellis. Khalia Hackett currently holds the job and may for the whole year, but Harris is the heir apparent, especially with Ellis exhausting eligibility this year. If Arkansas does what it’s supposed to against Texas State, linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves finally will get an opportunity, a low-risk opportunity, to see what his highly-touted first-year guy can do.
— Eric Bolin
Freshman RB Devwah Whaley: Whaley finally should get a chance at a solid amount of carries against an outmanned Texas State team. He showed flashes of his potential to be a special talent during fall camp, often ripping off big runs against the first-team defense. The coaching staff has kept him under wraps so far, giving him only 4 carries through the first two games. Coach Bret Bielema has said he didn’t want to put the ball in the hands of such an inexperienced player in close games like the wins over Louisiana Tech and TCU. There’s also a belief Whaley has struggled with pass protection. Whatever the issue, the coaches are obviously intent on easing him into action, and a comfortable win Saturday should provide the perfect opportunity.
— Trent Shadid
Whaley gets at least 15 touches: With Arkansas greatly overmatching Texas State, I don’t expect Rawleigh Williams III to play much past halftime, especially considering his injury history. Ditto for second-team running back Kody Walker. This will be a great opportunity for Whaley — the highly touted true freshman from Beaumont, Texas — to finally demonstrate some of his immense talent for Hogs fans. Media members got a glimpse of it during the Razorbacks’ first scrimmage of fall camp. If he performs well, Whaley may see his snap count increase moving forward. If he struggles against Texas State — as a runner or a pass blocker — it could be a sign Whaley just isn’t quite ready to contribute more regularly.
— Jason Kersey
Arkansas will score 50 points: Yes, the Razorbacks had more than 40 last weekend, but it took two overtimes to get there. I think they drop 50 this weekend in regulation. Texas State’s defense simply isn’t good enough after having allowed 54 points to Ohio on Sept. 3. Only 38 came in regulation, but Ohio isn’t Arkansas, no matter how decent the Bobcats are in the Mid-American Conference. If Arkansas gets its 50, that 31-point spread is realistic to cover.
— Eric Bolin
Arkansas will have at least 550 yards of offense: In 2015, Texas State’s defense surrendered an average of 522 yards per game to rank 124th out of 128 FBS schools. The Bobcats picked up right where they left off last season in a Week 1, giving up 630 yards in a 56-54 triple-overtime win over Ohio. Their defense won’t be helped this season by an offense running at one of the fastest tempos in the country. That’s a recipe for a subpar defense without depth to be on the field far more frequently than would be ideal. I’m expecting Arkansas to roll offensively.
— Trent Shadid