College Football Odds, Prediction, Pick for Texas vs. Arkansas: Our Betting Guide for Saturday’s Week 2 Showdown
Tim Warner/Getty Images. Pictured: Bijan Robinson.
College Football Week 2 Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
The top Southwest Conference rivalry is set to renew ahead of schedule when Texas and Oklahoma become official members of the SEC.
The old SWC was established in 1914 and was dissolved in 1996 after Texas A&M left for the SEC. Although it was the Aggies that served as the straw that broke the camel’s back, it was the departure of Arkansas in 1992 that ended a conference that was a powerhouse for many decades.
“Game of the Century” is a term used every few years in today’s college football landscape, but in 1969, President Richard Nixon was in attendance for one of the all-time great football games. Nixon would later go on to crown Texas as the National Champions after the game in Fayetteville, an unimaginable event in modern-day politics and football.
This is the 79th meeting between the two teams with Texas leading the series 56-22, as the Longhorns seek revenge after Arkansas won the 2014 Texas Bowl in a borderline erotic performance for the Razorbacks.
Texas stands at 1-0 after the debut of head coach Steve Sarkisian. The former Alabama offensive coordinator cashed spread tickets for Longhorn investors in an opening win against Louisiana.
The comfortable 20-point victory was led by quarterback Hudson Card’s three total touchdowns and running back Bijan Robinson’s 103 yards on the ground.
The defense dominated during training camp and carried over to the Ragin’ Cajuns, containing an explosive offense that beat Iowa State just a year prior. Despite the victory, Sarkisian stated the Longhorns could be better with “very fixable” problems in the area of penalties.
Long gone are the days of Sam Ehlinger running 11 formations in the Tom Herman era. Sarkisian ran an offense that utilized two tight ends at Alabama, as Texas ran 12 formations on 40% of plays against Louisiana.
The new head coach may have left his full playbook off film for Arkansas, as tight end Cade Brewer was targeted just twice in the game. The offense did favor a ground game that generated 21 first downs without a single explosive drive.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 4, 2021
The bread and butter of this offense was between the hash marks. Over half of Robinson’s rushing attempts came between the offensive guards, posting 49 yards on eight attempts. As for the passing game, Card posted a perfect eight for eight in passes between the hash marks no deeper than 20 yards.
Outside of those two metrics for Robinson and Card, the Longhorns relied on an unsustainable third-down rate. Texas went 10-of-15 on third downs with an average distance of 7.9 yards.
Although the Longhorns went a perfect five for five in red zone attempts to touchdowns, Texas consistently had issues getting behind schedule and generating few explosive plays.
Coordinator Phil Kwiatkowski made his debut establishing a defense with multiple looks. The Longhorns weaved from a two- to a four-down lineman set, with the highest blitz percentage coming on second and long from the 2-4-5 scheme.
The results were a bit inefficient, as Louisiana generated a higher overall Offensive Success Rate than the Texas offense, with six of 10 drives containing two or more first downs.
This TD run by Kyren Lacy was just filthy 😳
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 4, 2021
Despite the multiple schemes, Kwiatkowski’s defense finished bottom 15 in tackling, per PFF.
Passing downs were the kryptonite for the Longhorns defense, allowing Louisiana a Success Rate 19% above the national average. Quarterback Levi Lewis completed nine passes over 15 yards.
While Sarkisian won the Middle 8 by a score of 14-3, any team with elusiveness and a passing attack will give Texas plenty of issues as the players learn this new scheme.
Sam Pittman stressed to his team all through August that a fast start on the scoreboard was desired.
The Razorbacks had troubles in starting drives throughout the 2020 season, as that trend continued in the season opener against Rice.
Despite returning explosive options such as quarterback KJ Jefferson, Treylon Burks and Trelon Smith, the Razorbacks trailed Rice, 10-7, at halftime.
A heroic 31-point second half got Razorback investors to the window through KJ Jefferson and safety Jalen Catalon.
#Razorbacks Safety, Jalen Catalon (1) had himself a day vs Rice, tallying 11 tackles (6 solo) 2 INTs and 1 TFL.
He capitalized on some poor throws, showed off his athleticism on returns and his range vs the run. I love the fiery competitiveness he plays with. 1st round talent! pic.twitter.com/nLvig9Cl3M
— Jordan (@Texans_Thoughts) September 5, 2021
The Razorback ground game was the savior in the comeback against Rice, averaging 6.1 yards and a 57% Success Rate.
Jefferson and Smith generated near 200 yards on the ground but in very different methods. The Arkansas quarterback was flushed out of the pocket on passing plays for an even split in scrambling and designed rushing yards, as Jefferson averaged 8.25 yards after contact.
Plenty has been made about the Arkansas quarterback adding weight, but maintaining the speed is a plus for the Hogs.
As for Smith, the upperclassman generated eight missed tackles on 22 rushing attempts, but only 2.55 yards after contact. Both of these efforts made up for a non-existent passing game.
Hybrid wide receiver Burks projected as one of the most explosive offensive players in the nation, but injury limited his practice time leading up to Rice.
Despite the concerns, Burks was on the field for 58-of-67 snaps with a rushing attempt and nine targets in the passing game. The sophomore tallied negative two yards on the ground, two drops and created just three missed tackles.
Barry Odom schemes a 3-3-5 and is willing to give up yards in exchange for no explosive plays. Rice was limited to just one explosive drive and zero rushing attempts that eclipsed 12 yards.
Where the Razorback defense shined was passing downs, limiting the Owls to a 10% Success Rate and 3.1 yards per play. Almost half of Rice’s rushing attempts were stuffed, as Wiley Green was picked off on three occasions.
There were multiple targeting violations with ejections of Arkansas’ two best tacklers from 2020. Grant Morgan was flagged in the first half and will return for Texas, but Bumper Pool also received a targeting call and will miss the first half against Texas.
Pittman stated the defense will adjust its tackling fundamentals this week, but there were plenty of positives from seven tackles for loss, shutting down the Owls rush attack and creating an average of 7.9 yards to go on third down.
Texas vs. Arkansas Matchup Analysis
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Texas Offense vs. Arkansas Defense
Arkansas Offense vs. Texas Defense
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Texas vs. Arkansas Betting Pick
From the early week press conferences, these teams have scouted each other well throughout training camp.
Pittman specifically mentioned Sarkisian’s tendency to run a 12 formation heavy to one side of the field and look for Robinson through the air on the opposite side, a play that resulted in Card’s first touchdown. Although Arkansas drops into a zone on pass coverage, there is no doubt that a spy will be assigned to Robinson.
Sark was known for attacking the middle of defenses at Alabama with zone run, a trend that continued with Card and Robinson in the Longhorns opener.
The unsustainable third-down conversion rate from nine yards out focused on wide receiver Jordan Whittingham over the middle. With Pool missing the first half and transfer tackle John Ridgeway making his first start, this should be the point of attack with the Razorbacks dead set on limiting explosive plays.
As for the Razorbacks offense, Pittman fully expects the Texas defense to load the box. Kwiatkowski ran several different defensive schemes that left the secondary in nickel or dime coverage but is expected to leave linebacker in the box.
The Longhorns must respect Jefferson leaving the pocket and creating explosive plays on the ground.
Jefferson took repetitions in practice this week making better decisions when outside of the pocket, the source of his interception against Rice.
The quarterback cannot be expected to do it all on his own against the Longhorns, as Burks continues to practice this week. Pittman was quoted that the first-team All-American was healthy against Rice but just rusty from missed practices.
Investors have hammered Texas in this game, with a Game of the Year line around -3.5 and an opener at -4.5. That number now sits as a touchdown favorite for the Longhorns.
Despite the Action Network projections below a touchdown, the buy point for the Razorbacks is at +7.5 as a poor performance against Rice and the disappearance of Burks fuels the betting market.
The better bet may be on the total of 57 with our projection at 52.5. Sark will continue to run a slow tempo with plays over the middle as the Razorback defense goes max protect in allowing explosive plays.
Texas did not generate a single explosive drive against Louisiana, and Arkansas will sell out to stop Robinson.
As for the Razorbacks, the slow starts continue in the Pittman era. The Hogs have turned to freshman AJ Green to see snaps in the backfield this week, a sign that Burks may not be ready to handle a full load.
The explosive playmakers are there for the Hogs, but Offensive Success Rate continues to elude the passing game.
Pick: Under 57 or better