Welcome to the inaugural Frogs O’ War big prediction. This is meant to be a weekly article where we use the upcoming weekend’s matchup to make a bold prediction about the team. This week we focus on the Arkansas Razorbacks.
There was a lot of hype coming into the season about how good this TCU defense was supposed to be. With so much returning talent I, along with many others, expected the Frogs to make quick work of a visiting FCS team in the season opener. That’s not... exactly... how things shook out. Instead, the defense gave up 461 yards and 41 points to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in a win that was way to close for comfort.
It’s been a long time since TCU’s defense gave up 41 points or more in an opener. The last time that happened was in 2011 in Waco. As sickening as that thought is it’s still not as bad as losing to an FCS team, and that didn’t happen. While we can take a sigh of relief, it’s still a little unnerving staring down the Big 12 gauntlet and thinking that your team may not be capable of stopping a talented offense.
I don’t believe that to be the case. In fact, I believe that the same TCU defense that gave up 41 points to South Dakota State will hold Arkansas to under 30 points in Fort Worth this Saturday. That’s a pretty drastic improvement when you consider that we’ll be hosting a team from the mighty SEC, but there is reason to think that TCU will play much better defensively against the Hogs.
First off, while TCU did give up over 100 yards rushing, the Jackrabbits only managed 1.8 yards per carry on the ground if you take out the one 87 yard touchdown run. That run was mainly a result of the linebackers being coaxed out of position, and those kind of things will get fixed. Granted, Arkansas will have much more talent in the running game than SDSU, but assuming that the Frogs tackle better, that’s not where the game will be decided.
The 333 passing yards and three touchdowns given up through the air are more concerning, but this was also largely the result of a matchup problem. SDSU receiver Jake Wieneke was responsible for 196 yards and two of those touchdowns. He may play at the FCS level, but he’s also a 6’4”, 216 lbs, two-time All-American with over 3,000 career receiving yards now in his junior year. Almost the entire remainder of the passing offense (96 yards and 1 TD) was accounted for by 6’4”, 250 lbs tight end Dallas Goedert.
Despite the obvious overall talent gap between an FCS program and an SEC program, TCU actually matches up a lot better against Arkansas’ passing attack than they did against South Dakota State. Arkansas does have a big-bodied tight end in the 6’6”, 256 lbs Jeremy Sprinkle, but other than that their top two receivers Keon Hatcher and Drew Morgan are 6’2”, 207 lbs and 6’0”, 193 lbs respectively. TCU’s primary asset in the secondary is speed, not size. That means that the weapons in a passing attack like Arkansas play into TCU’s hands a lot better than the one we faced last week.
For the Horned Frogs to hold Arkansas to less than 30 points, the defensive line will need to get better pressure throughout the game than they did last week, but Arkansas’ offensive line has a lot of new faces, and so expecting improvement there isn’t unreasonable either. All of that, together with a new quarterback for the Hogs Austin Allen who recorded his first career start last week, and TCU is set up with the opportunity to take a major step forward on the defensive side of the ball.