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Topping the Toppers: Preview of Arkansas vs. Western Kentucky

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The Hogs and Tops will meet for the first time ever in November.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Mississippi State
Ty Storey will be on the visiting team when Western Kentucky visits Fayetteville.
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Introduction

We’re beautifully close to football season, and even though last year was the worst year of all time, there’s actually some reason to be hopeful. For that reason, we’re breaking down each game we’ll play this year, and exploring a little bit about each opponent. Ultimately we’ll make some levels of predictions about our chances, for better or for worse. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ArkansasFight to keep up with all the latest posts, and don’t forget to sign up to be a pollster for our site!

Week 11 - Arkansas vs. Western Kentucky

Opponent:

Western Kentucky

Where:

Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, just south of “Hog Town

Their Coach:

Tyson Helton, a long-time offensive assistant and younger brother of USC coach Clay Helton, finally gets his shot as a head coach. He will be in his first season, replacing the fired Mike Sanford, who was WKU’s first bad hire as an FBS program.

Our Record Against Them:

The two programs have never played, although they have nearly identical all-time win percentages (Arkansas .584, Western Kentucky .586). Of course, WKU has only been an FBS program since 2010.

Key Players:

He probably won’t begin the season as the starter, but former Hog QB Ty Storey is battling for playing time in his final collegiate season.

On defense, the Tops can create some havoc, and that starts with defensive back Ta’Corian Darden, who led the team with 18 havoc plays: four TFLs and 14 passes defensed.

A Very Short Recap of Last Year:

After a really nice run of good coaching from Willie Taggart (2010-2012), Bobby Petrino (2013), and Jeff Brohm (2014-2016), the Tops finally made a bad hire, and Mike Sanford was fired after a 6-7 first year gave way to a 3-9 season a year ago. And thus WKU is in an unfamiliar place: rebuilding.

(Check out my intro to Arkansas Fight’s advanced stats here)

Western Kentucky has relied on offense to drive its success in recent years, and last year’s offense was a nightmare. Despite a solid offensive line (61st stuff rate, 64th sack rate), WKU’s quarterbacks and skill players were not very good: the Tops were 125th in bonus yards per explosive run and 110th in adjusted net yards per pass attempt. That’s why they brought Storey in to challenge their two returnees and added four three-star wide receivers in their recruiting class.

Defensively, WKU was closer to the middle of the Conference USA. They limited big plays but had a very hard time stopping the run.

How We Feel About Our Chances:

Western Kentucky will definitely be better than their 3-9 record last year, but small improvements probably won’t be enough to beat Arkansas. I’ll take the Hogs by double digits.

Thanks for checking out the tenth part of our series on Arkansas’ 2019 Football Season, be sure to sign up for our SB Nation poll, and follow @ArkansasFight on Twitter. For Razorback stats and pithy observations, follow @AdamFord92.