Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Texas Longhorns
Monday – December 29 – 8:00 pm
NRG Stadium – Houston
A look back at their seasons:
Arkansas Razorbacks (6-6, 2-6 in Southeastern Conference — West Division):
Don’t let the record fool you — the Razorbacks are surging, having won three of their final five games of the season, including back-to-back shutouts of LSU and Ole Miss. This is the Razorbacks’ first bowl trip since the end of the 2011 season, when then-coach Bobby Petrino led them to the Cotton Bowl where they beat Kansas State.
Texas Longhorns (6-6, 5-4 in Big 12):
Charlie Strong has the Longhorns in a bowl game in his first season as head coach and like Arkansas, the Longhorns had to rally to get into bowl season. A late season stretch where the Longhorns won four of five games lifted Texas to six wins before their season-finale loss to TCU. Texas is now getting a lift in recruiting heading into signing day.
Players and things to watch:
The running game: Head coach Bret Bielema has brought that smash-mouth Wisconsin rushing attack to Fayetteville and it’s working out big-time. Arkansas is No. 26 in rushing yards per game (220.3 ypg) and has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Williams announced last week he would return for his senior year.
The run defense: Texas enters the game with a solid rushing attack but the Razorbacks are used to slowing those down. Arkansas is No. 23 in FBS in rushing defense, allowing 124 yards per game. Throw in the two shutouts and the unit, led by leading tackler Martrell Spaight, will be hard to deal with.
The pass rush: The Razorbacks hope to exert some pressure on Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, but they’ve not had a lot of success getting to the quarterback. Their top pass rusher, Trey Flowers, has just five sacks this season. The Razorbacks will need more out of their pass rush to win this game.
Malcom Brown and Cedric Reed: The Longhorns aren’t going to have a big problem getting into the backfield. Brown was a Lombardi Award finalist who had 12.5 tackles for loss (6.5 sacks) in 2014. Reed is on the opposite side and just as potent at rushing the passer or getting into the backfield (5.5 sacks).
Tyrone Swoopes: Texas relies more on the run than the pass, much like Arkansas. But whether or not Swoopes gets into a rhythm passing the football may determine how wide the rushing lanes are for backs like Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray.
Recruiting: Texas wants to put on a show for in-state recruits that are on the fence. A win, coupled with the recent commitment by linebacker Malik Jefferson (No. 1 LB in the nation), and you have a recipe to make a big impression inside state lines.
Prediction: Texas 19, Arkansas 17
This one has well-played and low-scoring written all over it, given how good both of these defenses are. Plus, the old-timers are going to love this because it’s an old Southwest Conference rivalry. I think Texas will find a way to win this year’s AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl.