Louisiana Tech (0-0, 0-0) vs Arkansas (0-0,0-0)
Donald W. Reynolds Stadium, September 3, 3:00 PM
TV: SEC Network
When Last These Titans Met
The year was 1997, the #1 song in the land was Elton John’s Candle In The Wind, and the Razorbacks barely squeaked by with a 17-13 win in Little Rock. Over all, Arkansas has won all three meetings (starting with a 16-0 shutout pitched in 1901).
What’s Up With The Dawgs?
Louisiana Tech went a solid 9-4 last year, which included a New Orleans Bowl win over Arkansas State. The Bulldogs have won 9 games three of the last four seasons, though a CUSA championship continues to allude the city of Ruston. The 2015 season was especially frustrating considering the depth of talent. The Bulldogs saw three of its members drafted into the NFL this April, including starting quarterback Jeff Driskel and stud running back Kenneth Dixon. Replacing this talent won’t be easy.
How’s It Hanging With The Hogs?
After the disastrous John L. Smith year in 2012, Coach Bret Bielema has rebuilt the Hogs in his own image, using a beefed up offensive line to pound opponents. After enduring a sobering loss to Toledo in Little Rock, followed by a thrashing from Texas Tech, the Hogs won seven of its last ten games to finish 8-5. Like the Bulldogs, the NFL draft dipped liberally into the Hogs’ roster, taking starting quarterback Brandon Allen, staring running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, and tight end Hunter Henry.
Louisiana Tech Enters The Season A Little Frazzled
Red shirt freshman J’Mar Smith was named the Bulldog starter, but that’s because presumed starter Ryan Higgins was arrested for DWI this summer. (Higgins isn’t suspended, though, and is expected to see the field on opening day.) This uncertainty aside, the Bulldogs are still expected to compete for the CUSA title in 2016, led by the return of the team’s two top receivers (Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson), an experienced offensive line, and talented safety Xavier Woods, who’s named a 1st team C-USA player for the last two season.
However, there’s no getting around that Louisiana Tech is replacing a very potent QB/RB duo and at least eight defensive starters. But then again, Louisiana Tech is far from defenseless. Thanks to recruiting and transfers, the Bulldogs have skills. But taking on Arkansas is just one problem. Attempting to topple Southern Miss from atop the CUSA throne is another challenge entirely.
Arkansas Feels Pretty Good About 2016
Losing your starting quarterback to the NFL is a bummer, but replacing him with his talented brother is mighty convenient. Austin Allen assumes the position behind center from his brother Brandon, and the Razorback staff was confident enough to name Austin the starter after Spring camp. Bielema still has plenty of beef on the offensive line, starting with 6’10” behemoth Dan Skipper. And his group of wide receivers is said to be one of the best in the SEC.
The defense for the Razorbacks was a weakness in 2015, and it was not very good at defending the pass. This year’s version on the defensive line is said to be lighter and quicker than last year’s version, and the linebacker duo of Dre Greenlaw and Brooks Ellis is stout. Arkansas was predicted by the media to finish 5th in the SEC West.
This Is How The Bulldogs Win
The Bulldogs’ seasoned offensive line pushes around the lighter Hogs defensive front, allowing Trent Taylor (1,282 yds, 9 TDs) and Carlos Henderson (774 yds, 5 TDs) to go absolutely gonzo, grabbing everything Smith and Higgins hurls their way.
This Is How The Bulldogs Lose
A rebuilding defense and inexperience behind center is too much to overcome for Louisiana Tech, and the Bulldogs become overwhelmed by the Hogs’ talented receivers and running backs.
A Tailgate Tidbit
Lou Holtz coached the Arkansas Razorbacks from 1977 to 1983. He’s reportedly returning to Fayetteville to watch his son, Skip, coach Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
With Driskel tossing darts and Dixon bouncing linebackers like ping-pong balls, last year’s Bulldogs were certainly in a better place to win than this year’s model. Though Arkansas has its flaws, SEC depth will be too much for Skip Holtz and Crew to counter. Louisiana Tech 24, Arkansas 45.