Game Day: Saturday, September 10, 2016 | Game Time: 6:00 p.m. Central | TV: ESPN | Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
If you know me at all, you probably know that my dad is a big Arkansas Razorbacks fan. This means, of course, that from an early age I knew how to call the hogs, was watching Arkansas more than any other team, and was very happy when the Dallas Cowboys drafted Felix Jones (don't start). So, when TCU and Arkansas announced they'd be playing a home-and-home series, we were both pretty excited.
The Frogs and Razorbacks were Southwest Conference bunkmates for 68 years, and the two haven't played since their last conference game, a 22-21 win for Arkansas in 1991. Overall, TCU is 23-43-2 against the Razorbacks.
From a TCU perspective, this is a big game. Not because Arkansas is some world-beater, or the defending national champion, or anything like that, because they aren't. But this is a big game for several reasons.
First, it's a game against the SEC. Like it or not, Arkansas has the SEC logo on their jerseys, which means that they're going to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to preseason ranking. Think I'm kidding? In 2015, Arkansas, coming off of a 7-6 campaign in 2014, during which they went 2-6 in SEC play, was ranked 18th and 20th by the AP and Coaches, respectively, in their preseason polls.
This season, after an 8-5 campaign in 2015 (plus a 5-3 record in the SEC), there's even more potential for them to show up in the polls. This can only help TCU, should they beat the Razorbacks on September 10th. After all, even if Arkansas goes 8-5 again, think of what that could do to boost TCU's profile, should the Frogs go on a run and win the Big 12. Think about the great boost TCU got from playing Minnesota in 2014, and add an SEC logo to it.
The second reason this is a big game, is because Arkansas is actually getting decent again. Each year under Bret Bielema has seen the Razorbacks win more games than the last, while also becoming more successful in conference play. In 2013, the Razorbacks won just three games all year, and didn't win a game in the SEC. In 2014, they went 7-6, and won two games in conference play. Last season Arkansas went 8-5, and 5-3 in the SEC, finishing third in the vaunted SEC West, behind Alabama and Ole Miss, ahead of LSU and Texas A&M.
With a refocus on the defensive side of the ball since Bielema's arrival this will be a test for TCU's revamped offense. Arkansas, like TCU, is replacing a few key members of the offense, including QB Brandon Allen (his brother Austin is the likely new starter), and RB Alex Collins, TE Hunter Henry, and three names along the offensive line. TCU has had success against Bielema offense's before, though, and with a stacked defense this could be a rather low scoring affair.
The final reason this is a big game is it's going to provide a window into how quickly TCU's newcomers can get up and running in 2016. This will be the second game for a new quarterback, new starting running back, and a major test for the four new bodies along the offensive line. It will also give us another opportunity to see how Patterson prepares his defense for a style of play the Frogs don't encounter very often in the Big 12.
All in all, this is a solid non-conference matchup for the Frogs, and it's one that's close to my childhood heart. This game, especially if Arkansas turns out to be decent this season, offsets the relatively weak non-conference slate TCU has the rest of the way, with South Dakota State and SMU.