Razorback football is 40 days away. People are starting to talk, and you can almost smell that fall air coming. Going into year two for Head Coach Sam Pittman, expectations are modest. After the promise shown in the most difficult season in program history, however, fans are starting to pump the sunshine on what could be an incredible season on the Hill.
If there weren’t enough storylines for this game two weeks ago, there are now. With the Texas Longhorns announcing their intent to leave the Big 12 and apply for the SEC, this game feels more and more like a rivalry coming back in full force. Don’t be surprised if you see College GameDay make an appearance in Fayetteville for this one.
Six weeks remain before Arkansas kicks off the season, and with each passing day, the chatter gets louder and louder. Today we are heading into week two of the deep dive for Arkansas’ opponent, the Texas Longhorns.
A Rivalry Renewed
It’s been a long time since the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Longhorns met on the gridiron, but don’t let the absence fool you. The rivalry between the Hogs and Longhorns, while recently dormant, is a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1894. In fact, between 1932 and 1991 they played every single season while in the old Southwestern Conference.
Since 1991, though, the two have only played six times. For older fans, Texas is the one rival that Arkansas has always hated. The Horns Down gesture is almost religion to those fans. But the younger fanbase just doesn’t have the same hatred for the team in Austin.
The matchup on September 11 might be just what the doctor ordered to renew that rivalry, though. The game is set for ESPN Primetime at 6PM, with a sellout crows expected at Donald W Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Both programs will be breaking in new coaching staffs, with Arkansas hiring Sam Pittman after the 2019 season, and Texas hiring Steve Sarkisian last season. Both programs will be looking for an early boost to their coaching resume in 2021.
A Deep Dive Into The Longhorn Offense
Many fanbases give first-year head coaches a free pass the first year. The time it takes to implement systems and recruit people to play in those systems takes time. Texas seems to run things differently, though.
Head Coach Steve Sarkisian is going to need to provide instant results in order for the Longhorn faithful. Now, that doesn’t mean that he’ll need to field a Top 10 team in his first year, but he is going to need to show that the hope is there.
What Sarkisian has going for him is the running game. Freshman Bijan Robinson is poised to be the focal point of the offense in 2021, as he exploded on the scene last season with over 900 yards of total offense, with six total touchdowns. What is more impressive there is that he did it with only 86 carries and 15 receptions.
Robinson could prove to be a pain for the Razorbacks defense. Add in the fact that four of the five starters on the offensive line for Texas are returning. Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom will need to have his offensive line sharp and ready to go to stifle that running game.
In the quarterback room, there is less certainty at who will be on the field. The only quarterback that has any significant game time is junior Casey Thompson, who took the reigns for Sam Ehlinger in the Longhorns’ bowl game against Colorado. He showed tremendous upside, completing 80% of his passes with four touchdowns.
The Longhorn QBs have a few veteran receivers to throw to in Jordan Whittington and Joshua Moore, and they will also have something of a wild card in freshman Troy Omeire, who was set to make an immediate impact before a torn ACL took him out for the rest of the year.
Previewing the Longhorn Defense
If there is one thing the Big 12 (RIP) is not known for, it’s defense. The Texas Longhorns may be able to field a defense that can rival some Pac-12 and Big 12 schools like Kansas or Baylor, but they have another thing coming if they think they will be able to impose their will against the likes of the SEC.
What the Longhorns do have going for them is a young, solid linebacker core that might be able to disrupt things for KJ Jefferson and the Razorbacks. Even with the loss of standout Joseph Ossai to the NFL Draft, Texas is still relatively deep thanks to the transfer portal.
DeMarvion Overshown and Alfred Collins are some of the bigger names returning to the Horns this season, and they have added some more names through the transfer portal. Ray Thornton (LSU) and Ovie Oghoufo (Notre Dame) headline the incoming transfers in the linebacker room to make up for the losses they had in the offseason.
How I Think The Game Will Play Out
This game is a little less easy to predict than game on versus Rice. While there is a new coaching staff in place for Texas, they do still have a decent amount of talent on the roster and can win quite a few games in 2021. The question that I have the most is how quickly can they get it turned on?
If you asked me who wins this game in week nine or 10, I would probably say the Longhorns. But the fact of the matter is that with it only being in Week two of the season, I am giving the edge to the Razorbacks. It will be a toss up directly leading up kickoff, and typically that goes to the home team.
I fully expect Arkansas to perform well offensively, and the defense will be stout enough to keep an inexperienced Longhorns team at bay.
Arkansas Wins, 34-20
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