As anticipation builds for another football season, it is worth noting that the Hogs have the most challenging schedule in the country once again. A slate of SEC West games will bump any team to the top of the list during the season, but a trip to Athens to face Georgia has solidified the top spot for Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks in 2021. But… we are here to talk non-conference, so let us dive into how each opponent will lineup this year and the outcomes of previous matchups.
Rice (September 4th – Fayetteville, AR)
Head Coach: Mike Bloomgren
Head-to-head matchup: 35-29 Arkansas
Arkansas begins the new campaign with consecutive matchups against former Southwest Conference opponents in Rice and Texas. Rice will visit Fayetteville to try immediately spoiling Sam Pittman’s first normal season on the hill. The Owls are coming off a 2-3 record in 2020 against an all Conference-USA schedule. Bloomgren’s squad picked up wins against Southern Mississippi and 21st ranked Marshall. They fell to Middle Tennessee, North Texas, and UAB to finish the season. The Owls gave up 18.8 points per game in 2020 and lost a key linebacker with the season’s conclusion. They will also be replacing their leading receiver and quarterback in 2021. However, quarterback Luke McCaffery recently joined the Rice squad after two appearances as a redshirt freshman in 2020 with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. McCaffrey is the little brother of Carolina Panther and All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey.
The Hogs and Owls have not met on the gridiron since 1991. Before the ‘91 season, the two schools met as conference rivals for 61 consecutive years. Arkansas experienced a nine-year winning streak between 1981-89 before dropping the matchup in 1990. The Hogs would then shut out the Owls in 1991 to finish the rivalry with a win in Little Rock.
Texas (September 11th – Fayetteville, AR)
Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian
Conference: Big 12
Head-to-head matchup: 22-56 Texas
You are kidding yourself if you have not thought about the electricity buzzing around Fayetteville and the atmosphere of Razorback stadium when Texas comes to town in September. This is the game that gets you through the offseason right up to kickoff. As Razorback fans, this is the game we have been anticipating for quite some time. Sam Pittman’s squad gave us reasons to be hopeful with solid performances last year. Additionally, the 2021 squad is returning familiar faces and an allotment of talent that should make the Razorbacks competitive. This is the most critical game of the Sam Pittman era so far, and there will be nothing stopping Fayetteville from erupting if the Hogs pull out a win against the Longhorns.
Texas comes into Fayetteville under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian recently served as offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at Alabama. The one thing we know for sure is that he will try to run teams off the field with an explosive air attack on offense. As offensive coordinator, Sarkisian led a high-powered Alabama offense that won a National Championship and earned a Heisman trophy for receiver DeVonta Smith.
The Longhorns finished the 2020 season with a 7-3 record highlighted by an October win against Oklahoma State and a dominant win over Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. In the bowl game, Casey Thompson made an appearance at quarterback and threw for four touchdowns. Thompson is the favorite to replace Sam Ehlinger as the Longhorn field general. Much like the Razorbacks, Texas will be breaking in a quarterback during the first entire season under a new head coach. The Longhorns have recruited well in recent years and will certainly present a ton of talent this season. Still, they will have to find consistency on the offensive perimeter and a reliable pass rusher. Also, keep an eye out for Longhorn running back Bijan Robinson. Robinson rushed for 703 yards on 86 carries last season and will likely take the load for an offense searching for their identity early in the season.
The Hogs and Horns have not battled it out since December 2014, when Arkansas dominated Texas in the Texas Bowl. The September meeting will be the 79th matchup between the two schools and, hopefully, add to the storied rivalry between the old foes. Although Texas has faded as a rival since Arkansas became an SEC member in 1992, the rivalry still sparks when the teams share a field. Recent generations have grown to despise LSU and Ole Miss, but the Texas rivalry still runs deep, and I am sure many Arkansans are excited to see the renewal this season.
The Hogs and Horns split their last four meetings dating back to 2000. The teams met in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day of 2000, where Arkansas dominated Texas in all aspects of the game. An infamous pregame speech from Houston Nutt sparked a 27-6 victory to start the century. Just three short years later, Matt Jones and company visited Austin to hand the Horns another loss, but this time in surprising fashion. The Hogs capitalized on a few Texas turnovers to take down the Longhorns 38-28 in what has since been dubbed “The Ambush in Austin.” Mack Brown and the Longhorns came to Fayetteville the following year and narrowly escaped with a 22-20 victory behind the arm of quarterback Vince Young.
In 2008, Arkansas visited Austin once again under first-year head coach Bobby Petrino. The Hogs were drowned out by a final of 52-10 to Colt McCoy and the Longhorns. However, Hog fans may recall seeing the first bit of action from Tyler Wilson as a replacement for the injured Casey Dick during this game. Most recently, the two teams met in the 2014 Texas Bowl. A 31-7 thrashing of the Longhorns concluded a 7-6 season for Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks.
Georgia Southern (September 18th – Fayetteville, AR)
Head Coach: Chad Lunsford
Conference: Sun Belt
No Previous Matchups
The Eagles are coming off an impressive 2020 season. Finishing with an 8-5 record and a decisive victory over Louisiana Tech in the New Orleans Bowl, Georgia Southern has every bit of confidence coming into the new season. However, the Eagle offense will be without star quarterback Shai Werts after his departure for Louisville via the transfer portal. Georgia Southern will play Gardner-Webb and Florida Atlantic before traveling to Fayetteville in week 3.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (October 23rd – Little Rock, AR)
Head Coach: Charles “Doc” Gamble
Conference: Southwestern Athletic
No Previous Matchups
History will be made in October when the Hogs and the Golden Lions go to battle in the capital city. It has been more than 75 years since the University of Arkansas played another state school in football. It should be a day for all football fans in the state to enjoy when the two teams meet on the field.
Hang in there, Razorback fans… it will be September before we know it!