FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas is a lot better than Texas State.
Thirty-nine points better, in fact. While that’s hardly breaking news, more than anything, Saturday night provided confirmation, and somewhat needed confirmation, that Arkansas is a legitimately good team. Maybe better than good.
But determining how much better than good is going to be left for another day. Specifically, we will all have a better idea of whether the Razorbacks qualify as a “great” team next Saturday. Arkansas goes to Arlington, Texas, to play Texas A&M — a fellow 3-0 team in the SEC West — in a game that ostensibly will determine the No. 2 spot in the division behind Alabama.
In the meantime, 42-3 routs don’t provide much opportunity to learn. Most everything was standard, showing little we didn’t already know. Judging by fan response, the biggest takeaway was a negative one.
@ericwbolin Biggest take away for me is that the O line is still a work in progress
— Woo Pig Dustino (@DustinoTheGreat) September 18, 2016
@ericwbolin Right tackle is a revolving door of problems.
— Adam Alter (@Adam_Alter) September 18, 2016
@ericwbolin RW3 is really good and the o-line still needs work
— Aaron ⛳️ (@the_foot_wedge) September 18, 2016
@ericwbolin uh that's not good. Frank's great, but recruiting the Oline has not been great the last few years and it's showing.
— joshua rushing (@joshuarushing) September 18, 2016
Four in a row.
Arkansas’ offensive line gave up just one sack. More than a few times, though, quarterback Austin Alen was chased and flushed out of the pocket. Coach Bret Bielema searched for answers, swapping starting right tackle Colton Jackson, who has had the biggest struggles of the front five, for Brian Wallace. Then back again. A few times, actually.
Frank Ragnow, who had been the starting center, moved to right guard to start the game and Jake Raulerson, the usual right guard, switched to center. For a couple drives, Raulerson was replaced there by Zach Rogers.
Right tackle remains the biggest worry, especially with Myles Garrett, Texas A&M’s first-team All-SEC defensive end, waiting in the Metroplex next week. Odds are strong the Aggies try to match him against Jackson or Wallace more often than against Dan Skipper on the left side.
@ericwbolin Garrett will be a problem next week if the tackle doesn't get fixed.
— Cody (@ARKgolfguy3) September 18, 2016
We also learned, or rather, confirmed, that Rawleigh Williams III is this team’s workhorse. His 19 carries for 121 yards and 2 scores were ample, more than ample, as he played into the shortened fourth quarter. Occasional handoffs went to Kody Walker and Devwah Whaley, but not enough for either to make any substantial move up the depth chart to create a timeshare at No. 1.
And that’s fine. Bielema has done it several different ways with his running backs over the years. Williams is on pace for more than 280 carries, though, which is both impressive and worrisome for a team that hinted at a timeshare at running back for most of the fall.
Williams has been worthy of the workload. His 354 yards are third in the SEC, a league known for dominant runners, and he’s arguably been the team’s best player, best offensive player anyway, through three games.
@ericwbolin that we're in worse trouble than I thought when it comes to LB depth.
— Mitchell (@mitchesbritches) September 18, 2016
Linebacker depth still is a concern. De’Jon Harris looked competent in his first appearance on defense. Bielema touted Dwayne Eugene, a junior, as capable in the fourth quarter, too. Neither, however, played any meaningful downs. Instead, Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw saw nearly every snap until the fourth quarter.
That’s going to linger. Ellis and Greenlaw were good last year and are better this year. But so many snaps are going to leave tired legs when the opponents the Razorbacks face increase in talent. That starts significantly next week.
@ericwbolin at RB, t's 1. RWIII 2. Walker … 7. The rest of the RBs. But overall, seems like 2 close wins did a LOT for confidence.
— Razor Jamon (@RazorJamon) September 18, 2016
That was a substantially impressive thing, @RazorJamon. Bielema told his entire team and staff not to talk about Texas Christian this past week. It made for some annoying media availabilities but apparently worked as the outcome was never in doubt Saturday.
@ericwbolin I don't have to follow a game vs Texas State while I'm away at a wedding… Which is nice.
— mateo (@MattyTeaks) September 18, 2016
Ultimately, isn’t the @MattyTeaks take what Texas State was all about?
Now we wait.