Football

Matching Up: Texas Tech vs. Arkansas

We look at every match up as Texas Tech travels to Arkansas to play the Razorbacks.

The Match Ups

Texas Tech Pass Offense vs. Arkansas Pass Defense
Texas Tech
The offense, particularly the passing offense, looks fantastic thus far in the season, and the receiver who was supposed to have had the best preseason camp, Dylan Cantrell, hasn’t even played a snap. Patrick Mahomes has been incredibly good and although I expect him to falter at some point, he’s just been so good and avoiding the rush, which he’ll have to do against Arkansas, and stepping up and finding receivers all over the field. The good thing here is that there appears to be some real depth at the receiver positions and guys have been stepping up their play, namely Jakeem Grant and Devin Lauderdale, which has been great for the team. Meanwhile, Texas Tech has weapons like Reginald Davis, when he’s on, has been great, and Ian Sadler, who blocked really well on Saturday (according to Eric Morris). Oh, and thanks in part to Mahomes, the offensive line hasn’t allowed a sack in two games. The big guys haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been really good thus far.
Arkansas
Statistically, Arkansas seems to be doing a terrific job, but they’ve played one team that’s terrible passing the ball, UTEP, and Toledo, which was their first game of the season, so we’re not completely sure what they are. With two games under their belts, the yards allowed is less than 200, but they haven’t been truly tested. The secondary for Arkansas is experienced, with Jared Collins (5-11/172) and DJ Dean (5-11/202) at cornerback, both are juniors, while strong safety Rohan Gaines (5-11/195) is maybe the best in the secondary, is joined by sophomore Josh Liddell (6-1/210) at free safety. I’d also add that Henre’ Toliver is playing a ton of snaps and is 6th on the team in tackles, right ahead of Gaines. The pass rush was terrific against UTEP, registering 4 quarterback hurries, but non-existent against Toledo. I’m guessing that Toledo got that pass off quickly. Arkansas only has 1 sack in two games.
ADVANTAGE: Texas Tech
Texas Tech Rush Offense vs. Arkansas Rush Defense
Texas Tech
Texas Tech really hasn’t run the ball like I thought that they would this year, although with Mahomes continuing to pick apart defense, they will eventually have to pick what they want to defend and that could mean that the running game will see more touches. Despite not having the ball a ton, the running backs were incredibly effective against UTEP. The running backs only had 22 carries on the day, but they made them count. The great thing about guys like DeAndre Washington and Justin Stockton is that they can make you pay on the outside and I like the fact that the coaches are feeding Stockton inside as much as they are outside. He has to do both for those outside runs to work.
Arkansas
From a personnel standpoint, Arkansas is loaded at the defensive line spots. They’ve got size all over the field and guys that have made plays. JaMichael Winston (6-4/262) and JEremiah Ledbetter (6-3/280) are your defensive ends, while DeMarcus Hodge (6-1/340) and Taiwan Johnson (6-2/290) are your tackles, with Hjalte Froholdt (6-4/299) and Tevin Beanum (6-4/280) being your primary back-ups. Early in the season, Hodge is your most disruptive player, but I tend to think there is some folks that aren’t quite satisfied with the results, but they’ve only allowed 70 yards a game. Again, you have to consider that UTEP ran the ball some and Toledo short-passed the Razorbacks to a win. Arkansas has a really good history of stopping the run and Texas Tech hasn’t taken off with their running game (yet). Right now, I like Arkansas, but Texas Tech will get some yards here.
ADVANTAGE: Arkansas
Texas Tech Pass Defense vs. Arkansas Pass Offense
Texas Tech
I think you have to nearly throw out the performance against UTEP as the cornerbacks really weren’t tested at all. Perhaps that’s a testament to them, but UTEP just isn’t an efficient passing team. Depending on what Arkansas does this week, they may not be tested much other than supporting the run. It would make sense that the Razorbacks will focus on the running game. I can say that I’ve been really impressed with how J.J. Gaines has looked at cornerback in his limited time and I tend to think that Justis Nelson still looks overwhelmed at times. I don’t know where to put him, but Texas Tech is going to need some guys who will thump the running backs as much as anyone. As far as actual defense, I think this will be between the UTEP and SHSU game, Arkansas isn’t going to totally give up on the pass, but they’ll be more selective. I’d expect a ton of play-action. The linebackers and safeties better be ready to cover some giants in Henry and Sprinkle. This is probably the one pick that makes sense for both sides. I do think that Arkansas is going to pull back on the passing game, but I think Madison, Bethel, if he’s healthy, Nelson, Gaines should be pretty good on the outside and Jah’Shawn Johnson hasn’t been afraid to put his nose in a play and that’s the way that Keenon Ward always plays.
Arkansas
Things got much easier on Monday when it was released that leading receiver Keon Hatcher is out for the year with a broken ankle. That’s a kick in the pants. Hatcher really was doing incredibly well, but I’d imagine that the Razorbacks will rely on Hunter Henry (6-4/253) and Jeremy Srpinkle (6-6/255) in their passing game. Henry has 10 catches for 159 yards and Sprinkle has 3 for 65. As far as the other wideouts, Jared Cornelius (5-11/202) and Drew Morgan (6-0/195) should be the guys that you watch out for as they each have 6 catches thus far this year. Brandon Allen has really been pretty good this year, but Arkansas has curiously become a passing-oriented team and that doesn’t make any sense. Arkansas hired Dan Enos, who was the head coach at Central Michigan (yes, he left a head coaching job to be an assistant) and the passing attempts are up, while the rushing attempts are not. As a result, the passing offense is 12th in the nation at over 360 yards a game, but the results, i.e. touchdowns, just haven’t been there. Brandon Allen (6-2/210) is your signal caller and despite throwing the ball all over the field, he’s only thrown 4 touchdowns, all against UTEP.
ADVANTAGE: Push
Texas Tech Rush Defense vs. Arkansas Rush Offense
Texas Tech
Things improved, but they weren’t perfect. A big run and lots of missed tackles, but there seemed to be a lot of solid plays there. The bad plays tend to stick out more, but there was some yoeman’s work being done too and I hate to overlook that. Still, I think Arkansas has to have have an advantage here even though they haven’t shown to be a running team thus far. This game and the SHSU game should be fresh in the minds of Texas Tech. I do think that the rotation of Rika Levi and Breiden Fehoko along with Keland McElrath and Marcus Smith, mixed in with Demetrius Alston has been good. The other interesting thing here is that Branden Jackson has been really non-existent thus far and I was expecting him to get more pressure on the opposing team. I also wonder how Texas Tech will manage a two tight end set with a fullback, if that’s how Arkansas rolls. Pete Robertson is good at being a speedy linebacker that can get to the quarterback and I can’t imagine that David Gibbs will take him off the field.
Arkansas
The offensive line is huge, going 340, 334, 322, 312, and 331 from left to right on your radio dial, but there’s obviously a disconnect. Without Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins really hasn’t carried a huge load. They hardly ran at all against UTEP and I thought that this was a result of the way that UTEP played that game, which was to press, so Arkansas went deep. But then they go out and lay an egg on Saturday against Toledo and you have to wonder what’s going on. If I had to guess, there will be some coaches’ meetings where an emphasis on the rushing attack will be discussed. We might also want to watch out for fullback Kody Walker (6-2/256). Arkansas is going to have to drop the hammer at some point.
ADVANTAGE: Arkansas
Texas Tech Special Teams vs. Arkansas Special Teams
Texas Tech
Taylor Symmank has been fantastic, both in kickoffs and punts, knocking a ton of kickoffs into the endzone and averaging close to 50 yards a punt. Gotta love that West Texas wind. It should also be mentioned that I think Cameron Batson has looked much more comfortable returning punts this year. That baptism by fire was tough to watch at times, but he’s been solid. Also good has been Jakeem Grant at returning kicks. I keep thinking he’s going to break one. Also, the coverage unites, in particular John White, have been nothing short of fantastic.
Arkansas
Well, Arkansas has been terrible punting the ball, netting only 14 yards a punt, which sounds crazy, although Jared Cornelius is a fantastic punt returner, averaging 18 yards a return (he’s only had 3 punt returns). The Razorbacks are also okay at kickoff returns, 49th in the nation, at 23 yards a return. Eric Hawkins has been the guy returning kickoffs thus far.
ADVANTAGE: Texas Tech

The Tally

This seems like it’s going to be a really close game and I do think that’s how it will play out this week.  Arkansas likes to play close to the vest (unless they blow you out like last year). I’ve got Texas Tech favored in their own passing offense and special teams, while Arkansas is favored in rush defense and rush offense, while the Texas Tech pass offense is a push.  Can’t wait.

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