Arkansas and Texas Tech aren’t ranked in this week’s latest top 25 poll, but the matchup between the Razorbacks and Red Raiders is certainly one of the most intriguing games of Week 3. This contest features an interesting contrast in styles, as Texas Tech will attempt to win this one through the air, while Arkansas plans to use its ground attack to control the clock and dominate the line of scrimmage. Will the Red Raiders’ high-octane style win out? Or will the Razorbacks successfully take the air out of the football and earn a key non-conference victory in Bret Bielema’s second year?
In addition to watching the style of play, this game is a matchup between two old Southwest Conference rivalries. Arkansas and Texas Tech have played 35 previous times, with the Razorbacks owning a 28-7 series edge.
Arkansas at Texas Tech
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Texas Tech -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Arkansas’ Rushing Attack Versus TTU's Defense
There’s a good chance this aspect is where Saturday’s game will be decided. Arkansas prefers a methodical approach on offense, averaging 30:26 per game in time of possession last year, while Texas Tech averages 23:42 through two games this year. Tempo is a huge factor in how Saturday’s matchup will be decided. The Razorbacks want to use their ground game to keep the Red Raiders’ passing offense off the field. Arkansas goes three-deep at running back, headlined by sophomore Alex Collins. Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall will also see significant time, but Collins (23 carries) is expected to be the workhorse. Texas Tech’s rush defense has been an issue this year, and UTEP recorded 277 yards (5.3 ypc) last week. The Red Raiders’ rush defense hopes to get a boost with the return of defensive tackle Rika Levi (367 pounds) this week. Arkansas has played only two games but is averaging 9.4 yards per carry. If the Razorbacks establish the line of scrimmage and keep Texas Tech’s offense on the sidelines, this plays significantly into Arkansas’ favor.
2. Texas Tech’s Passing Offense
As we mentioned in the section above, this game is all about tempo and controlling the pace of play. Texas Tech wants to go quick, while Arkansas plans to establish the run and own an edge in time of possession. If the Red Raiders jump out to an early lead, it’s a worst-case scenario for the Razorbacks. Texas Tech’s ability to score quick and on big plays (seven of 30 or more yards in 2014) is a tough matchup for Arkansas. Quarterback Davis Webb is off to a fast start (7 TDs, 2 INTs) and is completing 67.5 percent of his throws. He also has plenty of talent at the skill positions, starting with running back Justin Stockton and in the receiving corps with Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant. The biggest weakness on Arkansas’ defense is the secondary. The Razorbacks allowed 19 passing plays of 30 or more yards in 2013, but coordinator Robb Smith can counter a questionable secondary with a good pass rush.
3. Turnovers and Special Teams
With a tight game expected, keep an eye on the turnover battle and what transpires on special teams. Arkansas has an inexperienced kicker (John Henson), but punter Sam Irwin-Hill is one of the best in the SEC. The Razorbacks also have options on returns with D.J. Dean and Korliss Marshall. Texas Tech has the edge on field goals with Ryan Bustin (1 of 2 in 2014), while punter Taylor Symmank is in his first year as a starter. In the turnover department, Texas Tech is -3 through two games, while Arkansas sports an even margin (0). A mistake on special teams or a turnover could be the deciding factor on Saturday.
Think of this game like a basketball matchup. Which style and tempo will control the pace of play? Will Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense win out? Or will Arkansas’ ground-and-pound style dominate the clock and keep the Red Raiders’ offense on the sidelines? The guess here is both sides will land some punches. The Razorbacks will churn out a big day on the ground, but Texas Tech also lands big plays in the passing game against a suspect secondary. However, in the fourth quarter, Arkansas leans on running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams to melt the clock away, giving Bret Bielema a key non-conference win in his second year in Fayetteville.