TCU travels to Fayetteville this Saturday, September 9th, to play the Arkansas Razorbacks. It’ll be a rematch of last year’s thrilling 41-38 overtime victory for the Hogs. Game time from Razorback Stadium is scheduled for 3:30, and will be televised nationally on CBS.
The Arkansas Razorbacks come into this game as one of the bigger question marks of the SEC. Though they return much of their offensive line and secondary, they’re also a little green at the skill positions. They also played Jekyll and Hyde most of last season, with big wins over Florida and at TCU, but demoralizing losses to the likes of Auburn, Texas A&M, and even Missouri.
The big piece returning for them is QB Austin Allen, who could prove to be one of the top two or three signal-callers in the SEC.
He’ll be matched up against Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, who took a step back last year from their typical successes, with QB Kenny Hill and his wide receivers not living up to expectations. With that said, they still have the ability to put up points and possess several offensive returners.
The Horned Frogs sit as 3.5-point favorites after opening as 2-point underdogs. The over/under is at 58, but is climbing for good reason. Both teams will score aplenty.
TCU lives and dies with the arm of Kenny Hill. The Texas A&M transfer threw for over 3,200 yards and ran for over 600 more, but he was extremely inconsistent. His 13 interceptions led the entire Big 12 conference.
His wideouts weren’t much help to him last year with their 38 drops, and being sacked 31 times (2nd most in the Big 12) wasn’t pleasant either. Several of those starters are still here with a lot to prove. There’s no doubt the talent is there, but the discipline has not been. Luckily for them, Arkansas is not one of the defensive juggernauts of the SEC.
The Razorbacks were actually statistically worse than the Horned Frogs last year on that side of the ball. But they have a potential bright spot with their secondary. They weren’t nearly as prone to failure against the passing game last year, and bring back every one of this unit’s pieces.
Still, they took their lumps against Hill last year. The QB put up 470 total yards on them. The Razorbacks rarely had an answer for him, and they don’t exactly have the front seven to contain and pressure him in the pocket. Switching from a 4-3 to a base 3-4 will help somewhat despite the lack of linebacker depth, but the question is whether they’ve settled into the new scheme yet.
Arkansas should be ok given the way Allen played against TCU in 2016. He’s got some fresh faces at wide receiver, but he’s a good enough QB to incorporate them correctly. In the opener, Allen wasn’t his best, but nine receivers still found the ball in their hands.
And the ability to balance the offense with running backs Chase Hayden and Devwah Whaley is still there. It should be enough to drive up the Razorbacks score, even if their defense is not completely acclimated.
Once having a reputation as one of the few decent defensive teams in the Big 12, TCU has slowly come into the same territory as most of the conference’s pack. They were 73rd nationally on defense last year, and blanking Jackson State doesn’t count for much.
TCU is an impressive 26-3 SU in their last 29 September games, but Arkansas was one of those few teams that beat them. Also, though the Razorbacks are 1-4 ATS in their previous five, TCU is 4-10 ATS in their last 14. But a telling stat may be that the Horned Frogs are also a disappointing 5-15 ATS the last three years as the favorite.
This may be another wonderful overtime shootout between these teams. But when both possess improving talent at the skill positions and slightly maligned defenses, the tie-breaker comes back to the most important position on the field: quarterback. Austin Allen gets the nod here.