The Red Raiders have been looking forward to this game all off-season as they’re looking to dish out a little payback for last year. For Arkansas this game took on a much greater significance when they unexpectedly lost at home to Toledo last weekend. One of these teams will leave this game feeling better about their prospects for the season and the other will come out with more questions than answers.
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 19th at 6:00 PM CST
WHERE: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Arkansas)
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy, Wind 8-10 mph, Game Temp 74°F
TV: ESPN2 / WatchESPN
BETTING LINE: Arkansas -12 (O/U 70)
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
Texas Tech followed up their season opening victory over FCS opponent Sam Houston State with an even bigger 69-20 win over UTEP. The question for the Red Raiders is whether or not they’ve improved enough this year to stop Arkansas’ offense which is led by the largest offensive line in all of football including the NFL.
In both of their games this season Texas Tech has outperformed last year’s team. Part of that has to do with the offense looking like it’s already in mid-season form and the other part, perhaps more importantly, has to do with David Gibbs revamped defense. Through two games last season the Red Raiders were negative three in turnover margin, through two games this season they are plus five in turnover margin, which currently ranks third in FBS. If their going to upset the Razorbacks, it’s going to have to start on that side of the ball.
TEXAS TECH PLAYERS TO WATCH
Patrick Mahomes – After two weeks of the season Mahomes has been named offensive player of the week two times. You can bet that if he gets the honor for a third week in a row it’ll go a long way toward helping the Red Raiders earn a victory. This will be the loudest and most hostile environment that Mahomes has played in as a starter. If he can handle the noise and avoid making mistakes as he’s done all season it’ll be a good game for the Red Raiders.
Pete Robertson – Robertson returned to action against UTEP last Saturday and his impact was felt on the field. In his first game of the season the senior logged four tackles that included two tackles for loss and one sack. Robertson is the most disruptive force that the Red Raiders have and he’ll have to be in top form for them to have a chance to win this game.
Micah Awe – Texas Tech’s leader in tackles through two games, with 17, has been all over the field so far this season. Can Awe keep up the pace and not get worn down by Arkansas’ pounding offense? The answer to that question will play significantly in how well the defense does as a unit.
TEXAS TECH’S KEYS TO THE GAME
Stop The Run – This is fairly obvious for anyone lining up against the Razorbacks. Arkansas wants to ground and pound their opponents into submission. This week head coach Brett Bielema reiterated his teams dedication to the run and mentioned that it would be a special point of emphasis for this game. David Gibbs will need to sell out to stop the run for this game because Arkansas isn’t built to survive a pass heavy game and Texas Tech is.
Get Up Big – When you have an offense like Tech’s you’re pretty much assured that they’re going to score often. If the Red Raiders can mix in a few stops on defense in the first half while the offense puts points on the board it will make a Texas Tech victory significantly more likely.
Protect Mahomes – UTEP was able to pressure Mahomes from the outside that led to a few rushed throws and hits. Mahomes is the catalyst for the Red Raiders offense and while Davis Webb is a serviceable backup quarterback and a great teammate, he is not capable of driving the offense the same way Patrick Mahomes is. If the Red Raiders want to keep their bowl hopes alive they’ll need to keep their quarterback upright.
WHAT TEXAS TECH FANS WANT TO SEE
Lots of scoring from the Texas Tech offense mixed in with a salty performance from their defense and ultimately a win. Last year the game was close with the Red Raiders and Razorbacks heading into the fourth quarter with Tech down by seven points. This year the Red Raiders will want to be the ones wearing down the Razorbacks defense before putting the game away in the fourth quarter.
In Arkansas’ opening season win at home against UTEP there were no signs that the Razorbacks would have any issues with their early season schedule. So to say that Toledo’s win last weekend in Fayetteville was shocking would be an understatement. The Razorbacks will be looking to recover from last week’s upset and having a home game against a team that struggles to protect the run should prove helpful.
ARKANSAS PLAYERS TO WATCH
Alex Collins – The Razorbacks leading rusher with 181 rushing yards so far this season will need to have a big game against Texas Tech. His task will be made easier by the fact that he runs behind the biggest offensive line in all of football.
Henre’ Toliver – The sophomore defensive back leads the team in solo tackles with nine, tackles for loss with three and one interception. Arkansas will need to have their leading defensive back on the field making big plays in order to slow down Texas Tech’s passing attack.
Brandon Allen – Arkansas’ quarterback opened the season with a record-setting performance against UTEP with 308 yards passing and four touchdowns and surpassed that in their second game when he passed for 412 yards with one interception. The Razorbacks will need their quarterback to be productive with play action passes. If Allen has to pass for 400 yards again, this game will have gone drastically wrong for the Razorbacks.
ARKANSAS’ KEYS TO THE GAME
Pound The Rock – The Razorbacks need to run the ball as many times as they can behind their massive offensive line. Sticking with the running game will help to grind down the Red Raider defense, which should pay off at the end of the game. In last season’s game the Red Raider defense was gassed at the end of the third quarter which allowed the Razorbacks to pull away in the fourth quarter.
Get Mahomes’ Jersey Dirty – With most quarterbacks, getting them to break the pocket is a good thing. When Mahomes breaks the pocket big plays happen for the Red Raiders. In order to avoid Mahomes breaking down their defense, Arkansas needs to get to the Red Raider signal caller and sack him as many times as possible.
Control The Clock – The best defense for any team facing the Red Raiders is to keep their offense on the side line. In order for the Razorbacks to limit Texas Tech’s opportunities with the ball they will need to have long time-consuming drives that result in points.
WHAT ARKANSAS FANS WANT TO SEE
A dominating offensive line that flattens the Red Raider front seven to allow the Hogs’ running backs to run wild. On defense, the Razorbacks will want to limit big plays given up by keeping all of the Red Raiders players in front of them. In order for this game to be viewed as a success, the Razorbacks will need to win and win big.
Arkansas’ strength in the running game sets up perfectly against a Red Raider team that struggles to stop the run. Last year the Razorbacks utilized their overwhelming run game advantage to beat the Red Raiders in Lubbock. Last year the Red Raiders didn’t have an offense that could score as quickly and consistently as this year’s offense can. The Red Raiders turn this into a track meet and pull away late in the fourth quarter to squeak past the Razorbacks and return the favor for last year.