Arkansas will play its first game in Little Rock this season against FCS team Samford, here are three things to know going into the game:
1. Heisman Trophy caliber opponent('s coach).
Samford is coached by Pat Sullivan, former Auburn QB and Heisman Trophy winner in 1971. He was the first Heisman trophy winner from the state of Alabama and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991. Sullivan was the head coach at TCU from 1992 - 1997, briefly taking the Horned Frogs from probation to a tie for the SWC championship before a transition to the WAC, and ending in a 1-10 season before leaving to serve as offensive coordinator at UAB. Sullivan has coached at Samford since 1997 with an overall record of 32-34. Most recently, last year Sullivan led the team to their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1999. Sullivan missed the Bulldogs' first game while continuing to recover from back surgery, while DC Bill D'Ottavio filled in for the win. One other name that may be familiar to some Arkansas fans, Samford's Co-OC and QB Coach is Travis Trickett, son of FSU OL coach Rick Trickett.
The Bulldogs return 8 starters on offense, including basically all of their skill positions with seniors at QB (Summerlin), RB (Truss), WR (Pope and Cephus), and TE (Walters). Truss was the most productive player for Samford in 2012, rushing for over 1000 yards and 11 TDs. Look for the Bulldogs to focus on the running game as only WR Kelsey Pope had over 500 yards receiving and others were limited in production. Although only 4 players come back on defense, the secondary returns 3 of 4 starters including FCS All-American (and All-Name Team candidate) Jacquiski Tartt who led the team in tackles (93!) and interceptions (4) at FS. Truss (#2, 5-9, 182) and Tartt (#6, 6-1, 218) will be your players to watch on offense and defense respectively for Samford.
3. Can Samford play David for one game?
In a word: no. Last year Samford lost their one FBS game at Kentucky by a score of 34-3 and netted just over 100 yards of offense for the game. Five weeks prior, that same Kentucky team lost to one of the worst Razorback teams in the programs history, 49-7 in a game that was called off in the 3rd quarter due to weather. In 2011, Samford lost at Auburn by a score of 35-16, managing one passing TD and 116 yards rushing. The Bulldogs weakness on defense (especially at LB and DL) will likely be exposed early. You think Bielema might be reminding the Hogs' this week of the 8 FCS upsets over FBS teams in Week 1? (Update: He is.)
Interesting side note: Arkansas is currently favored by 32.5 (by offshore sportsbooks). For comparison, Mississippi St is favored by 42.5, Texas A&M by 46.5, Ole Miss by 49 and Vanderbilt by 46.5 all against FCS teams as well.
Prediction: This will be a night game in Little Rock against an average FCS team, so expect to see the starters for the better part of the first half and then a lot of rotation among back-ups after half-time (if not earlier). Plus, obligatory shots of a golf course and a few stadium clock issues. Personally, I'm hoping to see big nights from Alex Collins and Hunter Henry and no injuries whatsoever. [knocks on wood] [rubs rabbit's foot] [crosses all 20 digits] Arkansas wins 45 - 10.