It’s the first big game of the 2017 season. Arkansas hosts TCU, a rematch of one of the wackiest games last season. The weather will be perfect, CBS will be in town, and football is back in Fayetteville. To help preview the game we talked to Jamie Plunkett, Managing Editor of Frogs O’ War. If you want to read more about the game from a TCU perspective, definitely check out their work.
Gary Patterson teams are usually known for their defenses, but last year they seemed to get away from that some. Is this year's defense back up to those high standards?
Plunkett: One of the issues with TCU's defense last year was health. When Arkansas came to town in week two, corner Ranthony Texada was still working his way back from a torn ACL, while another corner, Julius Lewis, was also banged up. Defensive end James McFarland had just sat out the previous season with a foot injury, and was not 100%, and he was still getting back into game shape as well. In 2017, though, Texada and Lewis are both healthy, and are coming off of stellar back halves to the 2016 season.
The biggest (literally) improvement to this defense, though, has to be along the defensive line. Just last season, TCU had one 300 pound DT playing along the line. This season they've added four more, giving them a bulk in the trenches they've never had before. Two of the big bodies, Ross Blacklock and Corey Bethley, both showed out in their first game, and it'll be interesting to see if they can match up with the higher level of competition Arkansas will provide.
Ultimately, this TCU defense should be vastly improved, simply because they're healthy and bigger.
Hog fans know about guys like Kenny Hill and Kavontae Turpin, but who are some guys that Arkansas didn't see last year that they should keep an eye on this weekend?
Plunkett: Keep an eye on true freshmen Kenedy Snell and Jalen Reagor. These kids were teammates in high school, and both flashed some electricity in their first game for TCU. Snell scored a touchdown on his first collegiate touch, and it was an impressive score. Meanwhile, Reagor had a filthy spin move that got him loose for a 32 yard catch-catch-and-run later in the game. Both have top end speed, and both seem to be adjusting quickly to football at this level.
Last year TCU was 4-1 on the road. Granted, two of those were SMU and Kansas, but how confident are TCU fans about their team being able to play well outside of Fort Worth?
Plunkett: The Frogs have historically been a pretty good road team. They're 21-14 on the road against P5 teams all-time under Patterson (which includes 12 seasons of being non-AQ), and they're 18-9 (total) on the road since joining the Big 12. Patterson has this ability to motivate guys when it seems like the odds are stacked against them. There's no doubt he's fueling that fire for Saturday, along with reminding these kids about last year's game, which they feel they let slip away.
How are TCU fans viewing the game, do they want revenge over an old SWC team? Is it a chance to stick it to an SEC team? Or is it just another P5 non conference game?
Plunkett: Frog fans are definitely pumped for this matchup for both of the reasons you mentioned. They want revenge over Arkansas, not just for the SWC days, where the Razorbacks would constantly beat the Frogs, but for last season. TCU fans generally think they Frogs let that one slip away. And, it's always good to beat the SEC when you have the chance, just for program and conference reputation. There's no doubt this is a big game for all Frogs everywhere.
And to wrap it up what is your prediction for the game?
Plunkett: I think TCU gets a small slice of revenge this weekend, pulling out the win in Fayetteville. TCU is improved on both sides of the ball, and I think that helps them overcome what they couldn't a season ago. TCU 35, Arkansas 24.