Photo courtesy of Arkansas athletics
Texas will get a taste of what life in the SEC is like when it travels to Fayetteville on Saturday to take on Arkansas.
The 15th-ranked Longhorns kicked off the Steve Sarkisian era with an impressive win over Louisiana. Arkansas opened its season by rallying past another Texas school, topping Rice, 38-17.
Saturday’s contest begins at 7 p.m. ET and airs nationally on ESPN.
Texas has been the dominant one in a series that dates back to 1894. The Longhorns lead all-time, 55-22. Arkansas and Texas were two of the founding members of the defunct Southwest Conference, so an old and historic rivalry will be renewed on Saturday.
The two will meet for the first time since 2014. In 2014, Brandon Allen led the Razorbacks to an easy 31-7 win over the Longhorns in the Texas Bowl.
Arkansas has a big opportunity to show its improvement under head coach Sam Pittman. In 2020, there were signs of a program with life despite finishing 3-7. Now, Arkansas has a shot to flex its muscles in Pittman’s second season.
Should Arkansas win, it would immediately ride the hype train and propel itself into another tier in the SEC. The expectations would drastically change. After all, it has been a while since the Razorbacks have pulled off a win in a game like this.
Texas will look to ride some momentum after knocking off a ranked Louisiana team. Quarterback Hudson Card was sharp in his debut, and Bijan Robinson was as good as advertised. Sarkisian has an opportunity to walk into an SEC venue and pull off his second straight victory over a strong opponent.
For Texas, the implications are there. Regardless of when the Longhorns join the SEC, they will get a taste of what life is like in this league.
Keys to Victory
Offensively, the Razorbacks have to be able to move the ball in the air. Their backfield looked nice in Week 1, and quarterback KJ Jefferson was able to make plays on the ground. Still, he struggled to find consistency through the air.
He has a big enough arm to push the ball downfield; it’s just about being comfortable in the pocket and finding consistency. If Arkansas can establish a running game, which is very possible, then that’ll open things up for Jefferson. After that, it’s about putting him in the right schemes and executing.
On defense, the majority of the focus will be on Robinson, the second-year running back. Robinson is one of the best backs in the nation and is good enough to completely change the outcome of a game by himself. Arkansas will attempt to limit the amount of damage Robinson can do. That’s easier said than done.
The Razorbacks will have to force Card to beat them with his arm. Card has tons of ability, but it will be just his second career start and in front of a sold-out Arkansas crowd for the first time in years. Should they contain Robinson and put pressure on Card, then Arkansas will have a chance to pull off an upset.
Sarkisian will do everything he can to get Robinson involved, but you best believe he has something up his sleeve. He knows that Arkansas is going to put a lot of its focus on Robinson, so he will find other ways to use him or just find other ways to score. Sarkisian has a lot of confidence in Card, as he should after a big Week 1 performance, but he knows that Texas’ chances of winning decrease dramatically if a lot of pressure is put on him.
Texas will have to scheme around what Arkansas is going to do on defense. It will need to find a way to create a running game and protect Card. Should Robinson get going, it is going to be a long day for Arkansas. If not, it is up to the Texas coaching staff to find a way around it.
Line: Texas -7
This is the first time Arkansas has a sold-out crowd in years, and Texas will have to face that challenge. The Arkansas fans and players are hungry. They have not been successful in years.
The Chad Morris era took the life out of the program, and Pittman is starting to bring that life back. This is a very winnable game for Arkansas. Texas is a well-coached team with a lot of talent, but Arkansas matches up well from a physical standpoint, and has something to prove as a program.
Arkansas is going to feed off the momentum and make this a shootout in the fourth. The Razorbacks will find ways to get Jefferson going, and will utilize his legs to their advantage. They will try and stop Robinson, but he will break through eventually.
After that, things get sketchy. Arkansas will have a chance to win late, but Texas will make a stop after knocking through a late field goal.
Final: Texas 34, Arkansas 31
Other Predictions From Around the SEC
Alabama State 7, Auburn 50
South Carolina 19, East Carolina 16
Pittsburgh 26, Tennessee 31
Florida 45, South Florida 9
UAB 3, Georgia 34
Texas A&M 34, Colorado 23
Mercer 3, Alabama 59
NC State 30, Mississippi State 24
Austin Peay 7, Ole Miss 48
Missouri 23, Kentucky 30
McNeese State 10, LSU 45
Vanderbilt 14, Colorado State 20