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Arkansas Posing Matchup Problems for TCU

By Jim Johnson
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Despite not being favored, Arkansas does present some intriguing matchup problems for the Horned Frogs.

Arkansas at TCU was one of the most entertaining games of 2016, with the Razorbacks pulling off a 41-38 win in double overtime. Bret Bielema’s group are underdogs by just three points, this time at home, but if history is any indication, the pairing may end up as one of the can’t-miss showdowns of the week two slate.

Despite not being favored, Arkansas does present some intriguing matchup problems for the Horned Frogs.

Kenny Hill ran rampant against Arkansas, in 2016, totaling 470 yards of offense and three touchdowns, while completing 64% of his passes. However, he also threw more interceptions than anyone in the Big 12, last year.

Arkansas’ pass rush was middling a year ago, but has the potential for a lot of improvement, behind McTelvin Agim, one of the most highly touted prospects in the country, coming out of high school. If the Razorbacks’ defensive front can place Kenny Hill under duress, on a consistent basis, he will make mistakes.

Arkansas did force a couple of turnovers against TCU last year, but their 11.5% defensive turnover rate was only 64th in the country, over the course of the season. Paul Rhoads’ defense returns a very experienced secondary. As mentioned above, Kenny Hill is prone to turning the ball over.

If the front seven is creating pressure, obviously Hill will be more likely to make bad decisions, but regardless, there will be opportunities to take the ball back, swing the momentum, and put the offense in favorable situations, as far as field position.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson has always valued speed on defense, often at the cost of size. He famously operates under the mantra of signing athletes with good ball skills, and just finding a spot for them. Overarchingly, this has been an effective approach, and has led to much success, as the game has become increasingly spread out. However, against teams like Arkansas, this can be a problem.

Led by Frank Ragnow, the best center in college football, the Razorbacks have a significant size and strength advantage on the offensive line, relative to their opponents’ defensive line.

Despite having Austin Allen, one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country, and one of the leading candidates for a major breakout year in receiver Jared Cornelius, establishing the run, and going back to it, early and often, should be the focal point of the offensive gameplan.

If TCU does end up loading the box and selling out to stop the rushing attack, Allen and Cornelius, one of the nation’s statistically best deep threats in 2016, will shred their defense.

TCU is a team built for the modern college football landscape. Unfortunately for them, Arkansas, while having the ability, with Austin Allen, to open things up, can also win a more hard-nosed brand of the game. If the Hogs win in the trenches and play opportunistic defense, they’ll do just that.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP