Texas State at Arkansas: Preview, TV, Start Time, Betting Line

Texas State Bobcats at Arkansas Razorbacks

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Texas State – Here. Arkansas – Here.

Start Time: 6:30 PM Central

Records: Arkansas 2-0, Texas State 1-0 (first meeting)

Line: Arkansas -31

Texas State fans are rightly excited about what Everett Withers could achieve in San Marcos after The Greatest Football Game Ever Played in All of Sports History, but he faces the toughest coaching challenge of his career this week. He faces BERT, who seems to have “Careless Whisper” on in the background of every press conference and is the physical embodiment of the “YOU MAD?!” meme in human form:

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Often lost in all the headlines is that BERT has the Razorbacks on the rise despite their location in an eternally stacked SEC West division, and he’s a very solid coach who is one of the best proponents of Manball that’s not named Nick Saban. That’s not good news for a quick but undersized Texas State team.

Texas State Outlook:

On paper, just like Ohio, this isn’t a good matchup for the Bobcats at all. Arkansas has a massive offensive line that will tower over Texas State’s front seven, and they play keepaway with healthy helpings of a time intensive ground attack. If the Bobcat offense, with their “we want 90 plays a game” tempo, can’t maintain extended drives against a fast and physical SEC defense, they’ll be in serious trouble from the start. Luckily for them, Arkansas has shown a vulnerability to giving up yards through the air, at least between the 20s. UA tends to stiffen quite a bit in the red zone, and Texas State was a perfect 4 of 4 in the red zone at Ohio, so something will have to give.

Arkansas’s potentially pliable secondary is good news for quarterback Tyler Jones and his receivers, but they’ll have to run plenty of quick routes as Texas State’s offensive line will likely have a big challenge in keeping Arkansas’s front seven out of the backfield for long. As for the run game, Texas State’s o-line can at least take heart in knowing that they’ve already faced up against a solid front seven, so perhaps (in the most optimistic scenario) they can use some knowledge picked up from the Ohio game to use the run game as a safety valve and keep the Razorbacks honest. But Texas State will be hard pressed to do much on the ground at all if Stedman Mayberry and Jones aren’t given any running lanes to work with. Given the mismatch in the trenches between the two teams, that’s a strong possibility.

On the defensive side of the ball, the odds of success are much longer for Texas State. Although they showed significant improvement from last season in making a few spirited stops on 4th and short and generated some turnovers against Ohio, the reality is that they’re still undersized by general FBS standards and will have to do everything in their power to somehow avoid getting pushed around by an offensive line that averages 6’6″ and 315 pounds from tackle to tackle. The secondary is also still vulnerable to getting burned by receivers with elite speed, so avoiding an untimely bite on the inevitable play action throw will be crucial for the corners and safeties if they want to keep this game anywhere near close.

X-factor: Penalties. Although Texas State had a couple of sloppy moments in special teams, they largely kept mistakes at a minimum with only 6 penalties for 55 yards through 60 minutes of regulation and three overtimes. What they likely won’t be able to rely on is their opponent getting blanketed by a veritable quilt of yellow flags, as Ohio shot themselves in the foot with 13 penalties for 141 yards. Arkansas, by comparison, averages only 40 penalty yards a game.

Arkansas Outlook:

After a sleepwalking episode against Louisiana Tech, Arkansas put themselves on the map last week by prevailing on the road in a wild 41-38 overtime contest over #15 TCU. One name Bobcat fans will hear often is Rawleigh Williams III, Arkansas’s starting running back who is averaging about 25 carries and 116.5 yards per game, but the Hogs can fling the ball through the air as well. Quarterback Andrew Allen showed his chops in lighting up TCU’s secondary for 3 passing touchdowns and 223 passing yards, and he has a scary option to throw to in Drew Morgan (97 yards, 1 TD against TCU).

On the defensive side of the ball, Arkansas has a front seven that will likely pose the 2nd toughest front seven the Bobcats will face this year (only behind Houston) and has a terrific (and terrifying) triumvirate in linebackers Brooks Ellis (19 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 INT), Dre Greenlaw (15 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery), and defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter (13 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF).

On special teams, the Hogs have one of the best punters in the country in Toby Baker, who can boom punts for 50+ yards easy and can easily flip field position in favor of his team. If there are any weaknesses in the unit, it’s defending kickoff returns (average 30 yards per return), and kicker Cole Hedlund. Hedlund recently received the dreaded public vote of confidence from BERT and may be subject to the occasional bout of #collegekickers.

 

General pregame nonsense:

I asked y’all for photoshops of a party in the end zone, and you, dear readers, delivered.

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MY LORD. RIP, never forget, etc.

 

Prediction:

The win at Ohio brought a jolt of optimism to a downtrodden program with few expectations for the 2016 season, and Texas State fans can start asking what the Bobcats are capable of over time under Everett Withers. However, this game is likely to provide a cold slap of reality, and not solely by nature of this being a matchup of a ranked SEC program vs. a Sun Belt program that just moved up to the FBS in 2012. To be frank, by just about every metric (size, speed, tempo, and depth) this is an awful matchup for Texas State.

This game could be close if Arkansas take another G5 team lightly and Texas State’s receivers carve up a potentially vulnerable Razorback secondary, but the Bobcats will have to play utterly perfect football to have a shot at winning. Given the sheer mismatch in the trenches, even a perfect performance may not be enough in the end.

Arkansas 49, Texas State 28

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