Date: Saturday September 15, 2018
Kickoff Time: 4 p.m. EST, 3 p.m. CST
Location: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR
Streaming: The SEC Network
Line: Arkansas -7, O/U 69 (nice)
Series Record: Arkansas leads 9-0
Last Meeting: Arkansas won 66-7 on Sept. 29, 2007, the largest margin of victory in the series
Arkansas doesn’t need this crap.
Once a proud member of the Southwest Conference, now an irreplaceable part of the SEC, the Razorbacks are just breaking in a new coach and trying to recover from a couple of down years under Bret Bielema. North Texas, meanwhile, is the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the sideview mirror in Jurassic Park, getting larger and more dangerous with every step.
Neither school expected this when the game was scheduled. The two have a one-sided history. But on Saturday, this could be the Mean Green’s biggest game, ever.
Outlook - Razorback Stadium
Seating 76,000, over double Apogee Stadium, a sellout is not guaranteed. But still, at only 500 miles from Denton, this is not an unreasonable road game, and for that we are grateful to North Texas AD Wren Baker.
Helpfully, in addition to the usual game preview, we looked in to where visiting fans can grab a drink in town. According to Yelp, the highest-rated bar is the Cork & Keg, over on Spring Street, rocking 4.5 stars over 23 reviews. One reviewer described it as “Very laid back ambiance [sic] with a few TVs, bar, pub tables, popcorn machine and wine dispenser machine.”
Because we spare no expense, however, we also asked Blog Czar Eric Allen over at Arkansas Fight. What did Eric have to say?
“[T]he ideal spot is Dickson Street, its legend was even too much for Baker Mayfield:
Baker Mayfield on Arkansas arrest: "Dickson Street. It'll get ya."— Joe Buettner (@ByJoeBuettner) June 21, 2018
On to the game!
Outlook - Arkansas Razorbacks
After having a few very good seasons in Wisconsin, Bret Bielema had a few bad-to-mediocre seasons in Arkansas. He was replaced in the offseason by former SMU head coach (and powerhouse Offensive Coordinator at Clemson), Chad Morris. The results over his first two games have been, let’s say, mixed.
After a mandatory shellacking of an FCS sacrificial lamb in week one, the Razorbacks stumbled against Colorado State last week, 34-27. QB Cole Kelley was a dismal 6 for 9, yet somehow still threw for 102 passing yards and two touchdowns. RB Devwah Whaley was another one of the few bright spots, rushing for 165 yards and a TD.
Maybe you’ve seen it mentioned this week, but North Texas faced Morris’ SMU squad three times, losing them all. Not for nothing, but that first year— the year Morris went 2-10— the Mean Green still had Dan McCarney as their head coach, the guy who would be fired later that same season after a blowout loss to an FCS school.
Where Morris eventually turned SMU all the way around, going 7-5 last year, his first year there was a rough adjustment, and last week might be an indication that Morris and the Razorbacks are going through a similar period of growth.
Outlook - North Texas Mean Green
To say expectations are high would be an understatement.
For the current North Texas student, this is a breakout year, as they saw their alma mater improve from one win in 2015, to five in 2016, to nine wins a year ago. At that rate, North Texas should logically win 13 games this year. We’re not ready to write the check on that one just yet.
For the grizzled veteran, there are lots of reasons to be cautiously pessimistic. Despite the improvement, fans were sure we had a lock against SMU last year, though we predicted a much closer loss than we got. Courtland Sutton caught those four touchdown passes and UNT’s Jeffrey Wilson was stifled to less than 40 yards rushing that day, even as Mason Fine outpassed Ben Hicks. A corner had not been turned. The ceiling might not be as high as we’d thought.
The good news here is that Morris just got to Arkansas and has mostly the old coach’s players, where Seth Littrell is in year four and ready to rock, as well as being quite familiar with Arkansas already. Quarterback Mason Fine is averaging 431 yards passing over his first two games, putting up a 72% completion percentage. His favorite targets, Rico Bussey, Jr. and Jalen Guyton, are both averaging over 13 yards a catch. The rushing numbers have been... less than kind, but will such an impressive passing game be enough to get the job done Saturday?
Well, Colorado State can’t run, either, and they did okay.
Twitter seems to have its mind made up on this one, but first of all, don’t jinx it, and second of all, there are definite causes for concern on UNT’s side of the ball. Their defense is much improved, it’s true, but those have been against coaches who didn’t used to work at Clemson.
For all the stats and all the momentum, anything can happen after kickoff. North Texas will have to play this one perfect, one slip-up against an SEC squad and you’re ... well, you’re Baker Mayfield on Dickson Street. With a little luck and a lot of focus, North Texas might just look like Baker Mayfield on the football field.
Final Score: North Texas 35, Arkansas 31