Inside Texas Arkansas Picks

IT’s Bill Frisbie, Ross Lucksinger, Mike Blackwell, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross give you their picks, and their reasoning for the picks, for Saturday’s match-up between Texas and Arkansas.

Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer – Hunter Lawrence met with Austin media this week if only to prove that Longhorn place-kickers actually exist. Sure, you’ve seen them on plenty of kick-offs and PATs, but Lawrence has been called on just twice this season for field goal attempts (converting a 40-yarder against Florida Atlantic and Rice, respectively). Very few drives have stalled and, albeit against lightly-regarded competition, Texas is averaging 48.7 ppg (NCAA No. 6). Meanwhile, a very young Arkansas team has shown plenty of growing pains with its very new offensive scheme under first-year coach Bobby Petrino. A 35-point home loss last weekend came on the heels of two near-embarrassments against the likes of Louisiana-Monroe and Western Illinois (Arkansas trailed with less than two minutes remaining in both games).

Arkansas QB Casey Dick is poised to break Clint Stoerner’s single-season passing record (1998), and should become the latest QB to throw for 250+ yards against the Texas defense. Dick plays behind the best center in college football (2007 Rimington Trophy winner Jonathan Luigs), but he’s throwing to the youngest WRs that Texas will face all year. Opponents are averaging 33.3 ppg against the Pigs, but you can attribute much of that to offensive turnovers and special teams breakdowns.

The best Texas can show during the past four games in this on-again, off-again series is a two-point win at Fayetteville in 2004. This one, however, should be over midway through the third quarter. Things get dicier in a week, but Saturday should be another slow day for Hunter Lawrence. Texas 49, Arkansas 16.

Ross Lucksinger, Inside Texas Editor – The rivalry, the pageantry, the passion of Texas-Arkansas.

Fine, whatever. That’s all well and good, but for all the rivalry has to offer, that can’t change the fact that Arkansas isn’t a very good football team this year.

I know that heavy underdog Arkansas teams have knocked off the Horns before and that it’s hard to predict a rivalry game, but we can predict this one. The Hogs have struggled every minute of every game this season. It took a pair of comebacks on double-digit fourth quarter leads to pull off wins over a pair of college football powerhouses in the mighty Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe. When they did face legitimate competition, Alabama smoked ’em 49-14…and that game was at Arkansas.

The fact is, this team just isn’t ready. For years Arkansas has employed a power-running attack, but they’re switching to a passing offense that they just don’t have the personnel to run.

Hurricane Ike also made it impossible for this game to sneak up on Texas. The Horns have now had to prepare for this game twice and have had plenty of opportunity pay attention to the Pigs. With the improvement in kick coverage and ball-security this season (two areas that can cause a team to get upset if they aren’t up to snuff), Arkansas will have few opportunities to steal some points.

Yes, I know this game can be dangerous because it always matters more to Arkansas than it does to Texas…but the same can be said for Rice, and that didn’t help the Owls much.

The Longhorns win by what has apparently become their favorite score this season. Texas 52, Arkansas 10.

Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor – This game is troublesome to me as a Texas fan. It shouldn’t be, of course, and it wasn’t before the season started. But now, for whatever reason, I’m having some worry, and I admittedly can’t understand why.

Well, actually, I do know why: the Texas defense has shown it can and will occasionally give up yardage, and the Arkansas offense has shown it can do some things effectively both in the passing game and the running game, last week’s slaughter at home vs. Alabama notwithstanding. On the other side of the ball, I think Texas, as long as Colt McCoy is healthy, can score on anyone, and can most certainly score against the Hogs.

As long as McCoy is healthy, I’ll score this one for Texas.

And yes, I know I’m nuts to think this might be a somewhat competitive game. After all, the Hogs had to score a touchdown on their last possession of the game in both of their wins this season, against rather unimpressive opponents: Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe. It makes absolutely no sense to think Arkansas can compete with Texas in this game, especially after what Alabama did to the Hogs last week.

But hear me out…

*In 2003, Texas was ranked 5th in the country and Arkansas was unranked, and the Hogs came to Austin and won impressively. Granted, the Hogs had a much better team, but I’m just saying… *UTEP managed to gain about 150 yards on the ground against Texas, and Rice managed to move the ball early. Arkansas running back Michael Smith stepped off 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Hogs’ 28-27 win against Louisiana-Monroe. *The Texas defense has also shown a tendency to give up chunks of yardage in the passing game, and Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick had two straight 300-yard passing games before last week. *Losing Blaine Irby to injury puts even more responsibility on McCoy’s shoulders. *Yes, Bobby Petrino’s star has been dulled after his fumbling of the Atlanta Falcons’ job. But he knows offense in general, and passing offense in particular, and he’s facing a team loaded with teenage defensive backs. *Arkansas has much more talented athletes than UTEP, Florida Atlantic or Rice.

Now that I’ve painted that picture of doom, the Texas offense will score points in bunches again this week. And they’ll have to, because the Hogs will move the football. Texas 38, Arkansas 20.

Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher – For me, as with many of us older folks born in the boomer era, the Texas-Arkansas rivalry was once as big as the OU and A&M hate-fests in terms of generating gut-churning tension on every single snap.

I was nine years old when Texas and Arkansas played the Big Shootout in Fayetteville in 1969, and remember watching the game on a dark Saturday afternoon, fresh from a buddy’s birthday party at a bowling alley in Richardson. In my first couple of years at UT in 1979 and 1980, the Texas-Arkansas game was especially intense. My high school sweetheart had gone to U of A while I had decided on UT, and in ‘79, my freshman year, I still remember her calling me, gloating, from some loud, drunken game watching party, which was especially brutal for a heartsick college kid missing his gal. I desperately wanted the Horns to pummel the Hogs, but Texas lost 17-14, doubling my pain. But the next year, Horn linebacker Jeff Leiding seemed to channel all of my hatred for the Hogs into one magnificent, devastating hit on an Arkansas kick returner, as the Longhorns got their, and my, revenge with a 23-17 victory to start that season.

When the Southwest Conference broke up, I was truly sad to see the Hogs pack up and head for the SEC, because for me, that game ratcheted up the fun and intensity of watching Texas football to a fever pitch, in a way that playing, oh, say Kansas State or even Oklahoma State will never approach.

So I am happy to see the Hogs one more time this Saturday, and will relish the chance to see Texas pound these guys one more time, even if its just for old times’ sake. Bobby Petrino, who did good things at Louisville, figures to make the Razorbacks a contender in the SEC in time, but now, he’s got a team in the midst of a full-fledged make-over. After struggling with two weak sisters in their first two games before getting destroyed by Alabama, the Hogs don’t figure to come into Austin and bludgeon Texas like they did five years ago. They will get some yards, especially through the air, and some points, but Texas will get plenty of its own. Texas 38, Arkansas 24.

Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher – So the Pigs got smoked last week by Alabama. And they eked (oinked?) by a directional Illinois school and a Louisiana school not located in Baton Rouge. Not exactly indicative of a team that will test Texas, which is ranked in the top 10 and has breezed past its first three opponents despite lingering questions in several areas. But it’s those questionable areas in the Burnt Orange, including the new one at tight end, that lead me to believe this will be a more competitive game than any of us hope.

First, the Arkansas run defense was a sieve last week vs. the Crimson Tide backs, but that doesn’t mean the Texas offense is built to take advantage of that weakness. It certainly hasn’t shown it yet, at least not from the running back spot (think 108 rushing yards from the backs versus a weak UTEP rush defense). Second, Casey Dick’s struggles against ‘Bama don’t necessarily translate into similar trouble against the Horns’ inexperienced secondary and porous pass defense that has just one INT on the season (Dick threw all four of his picks last week). And third, well, I just get the feeling that Texas is due some turnovers of its own.

Of those three, the one that scares me the most is turnovers, because I believe the Horns can overcome the first two fairly easily. Colt McCoy has proven to be a legit threat with his feet and has been amazingly accurate with his arm through three games and as long as that remains the case, the offense will thrive, even without a true breakaway threat at running back or true receiving threat at tight end. And the front seven showed signs last week of being the force that it needs to be to overcome the deficiencies in the back four (against lesser competition, at least). But turnovers and special teams breakdowns against an inferior team can be the great equalizer. With a positive turnover ratio and no special teams foul-ups, Texas wins this one relatively easy. Anything on the negative side of the equation for the Horns and this will be a fourth quarter game. I’ve got a bad feeling it’ll be the latter. Texas 34, Arkansas 21.

Pat Culpepper: Texas 45, Arkansas 17.

Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 41, Arkansas 16