Texas Football: 6 pregame questions impacting outcome

Texas vs Arkansas
(photo courtesy Texas Athletics)

Texas had about as impressive a Week 1 as you could have, especially for a program breaking in a new coach. Steve Sarkisian and his coaching staff looked like one of the best in the country, freshman quarterback Hudson Card looked like a seasoned veteran and the Longhorns defense showed it might be something special this year.

Now, Texas heads to Arkansas to resurrect a rivalry that only those over the age of 40 will remember, but most everyone will understand. There are questions and keys for the Longhorns as they head on the road for the first time under Sarkisian and here at Horns Illustrated we’ll take a look at them as Texas heads to SEC country.

1. How will Texas handle what will be a wild atmosphere?

This is Arkansas’ first sellout in four years, and with the game being at night, the 76,000 Hogs faithful in attendance are sure to be a lively bunch. This will probably be the toughest and loudest atmosphere the Longhorns will play in all season — though Iowa State is perennially underrated as a tough place to play — and Texas will need to handle it with poise. Judging by what we saw the first week, this should be the case, but road games in the early part of the season can sometimes be goofy and the Longhorns still have a freshman quarterback. Which leads us to…

2. How does Hudson Card perform in his first road game?

Card was better in the 38-18 win over Louisiana than even some of the most optimistic Texas fans could have imagined, throwing for an efficient 224 yards and two touchdowns. But that was at home. Now, Card will face the noise of Razorback Stadium in his first road game as a starting college quarterback. Like Week 1, Card doesn’t need to win the game by himself or try to do too much. Outside of safety Jalen Catalon, who has “NFL player” written all over him, the talent level on the Arkansas defense isn’t all that great. Like last week, if Card throws for more than 185 yards and at least one touchdown in less than 25 pass attempts with one or less interceptions, that should be enough to win this game assuming…

3. Will Texas’ skill players keep it up?

Bijan Robinson surprised absolutely no one with his production against Louisiana, but we’d actually like to see him cut down on the 24 touches he had by a few. Not because he isn’t good, but because Texas will still need him to be productive in late Nov. and Dec. But in Week 2, don’t expect Robinson to have any wear and tear yet.

Jordan Whittington was Card’s go-to receiver in Week 1 — again, not a surprise — and he should be able to have a productive week against the Arkansas secondary. Even if Catalon shades his way, Whittington should open up enough possibilities for other players such as Xavier Worthy, Josh Moore and Cade Brewer.

4. Does the Texas defense have another outing where it gives up less than 20 points?

Probably. One thing to keep in mind is that Arkansas compiled only 373 yards, which in 2021 is nothing special, against Rice. Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson threw for less than 130 yards against an Owls secondary that isn’t exactly highly regarded. With defensive end Alfred Collins set to get more playing time, the Texas defensive line should be able to control the line again and DeMarvion Overshown has no reason to slow down from the 13 tackles he made. Arkansas is still probably a year away from making a bowl game, so it is hard to see this Razorbacks offense lighting up the Texas defense which was on point in Week 1.

5. Do the players care about the Texas-Arkansas rivalry?

Probably not, as they’re too young, but it doesn’t matter. Once they step onto the field and start getting booed and heckled by the Hogs faithful, there will be plenty of motivation to go out and perform. While it won’t be like it was in the early 1980s, former Texas quarterback Todd Dodge said on the radio this week he picked glass out of his helmet after Hogs fans pelted the Longhorns players with glass bottles. The current players may not care about the rivalry, but they’ll care about winning.

6. What’s the bottom line on this game?

The atmosphere is the only thing that should keep Arkansas in this game. Texas has better players and, by all accounts, a better coach. Remember, the Razorbacks are still in somewhat of a rebuilding mode, and outside of Catalon, their talent level is much lower. Arkansas was tied with Rice early in the fourth quarter last week and their own fans actually booed them during the third quarter. If the Longhorns can survive what could be a feral first quarter, they should produce a double-digit victory.

Horns Illustrated prediction: Texas 28, Arkansas 17.

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