The time to make a pass to the top of the SEC is now for Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks have been respectable under Bielema, but they haven’t blossomed into a legitimate contender in the SEC. It’s been more of the same, a team that can beat up on the teams they should beat. But when it comes to playing well against the elite teams of the SEC they look like they’re out of their league. Arkansas will be starting anew at some key positions, most notably at quarterback. The same last name is going to be on the back of the nameplate, but it’ll be a different Allen under center for Arkansas.
The younger brother of Brandon Allen, Austin Allen is going to assume the starting duties for Arkansas in 2016. Brandon was a conservative quarterback. He rarely took chances and just let the game come to him. However, Arkansas really needed him to assert himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, it really didn’t come to fruition.
Maybe Austin can be that guy, who has more of a gun slinger mentality in him. Arkansas isn’t a team that likes to take chances with the ball through the air often, so he may have to learn to let the game come to him like Brandon did. Bielema assembled a running juggernaut at Wisconsin and has been trying to duplicate that at Arkansas.
His offensive lines at Wisconsin were massive and he continued that trend with the Razorbacks. He’s been known for having the biggest offensive line in all of football. Not only college football, but all of football including the NFL. Certainly, Bielema hasn’t had the same kind of success here as he did at Wisconsin, mainly because of the defenses he needs to combat in the SEC on a weekly basis.
Arkansas brings some experience back to their receiving corps, which is imperative for a young quarterback looking to get acclimated in an offense. Four seniors will be back on the roster, including Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed, Cody Hollister, and Keon Hatcher. Hatcher is going to be the guy to look out for in the Arkansas’ offense. His 2015 season was cut short due to a foot injury, but he is back as the most talented receiver on the roster.
This will be a nice opening sequence for the Arkansas Razorbacks. If they fail to look adequate against Louisiana Tech, Bielema will be thrust into the hot seat again. They need a strong start to send a message. Are the Bulldogs going to offer much resistance this afternoon? Find out what I think below.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Arkansas Razorbacks NCAAF Betting Odds:
Louisiana Tech +24.5(-110)
vs. Arkansas -24.5(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Louisiana Tech vs. Arkansas Pick:
Louisiana Tech is not going to have the luxury of going into this game with a bevy of experience on the defensive side. In fact, they’re coming into Saturday with eight starters gone. The secondary will have only one starter returning. It doesn’t bode well for a Bulldogs’ defense that was ranked 100th against the pass in 2015. Like I said, this could be a nice game for Austin Allen to instill some confidence in himself and Arkansas’ fans. There won’t be any starters returning at the linebacker position. They should have their hands full against what will be another huge Arkansas’ offensive line.
Louisiana Tech features a strong receiving core, which will be the pinnacle of their offense in 2016. Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson should combine to do some damage against defenses. Taylor finished second in the conference with 99 receptions last season. They also sport an offensive line that should be in solid shape. Three starters will be coming back, along with Kirby Wixson who was unable to suit up in 2015 due to an injury. He was a starter in 2014. The question mark is at quarterback with Ryan Higgins starting. If he can get the ball out to his receivers effectively, the Bulldogs will put up huge numbers. Higgins started in 2013, but was passed over in favor of Florida transfer Jeff Driskel. This offense will get it together. Question being, how put together will they be against Arkansas in the first game?
I am under the impression that Arkansas is going to gash Louisiana Tech pretty consistently in this game. A C-USA defense with limited experience is not going to look good against a Bret Bielema running game. This should open up the deep ball for Austin Allen who is looking for a coming out party in Week 1. The Hogs should win comfortably here, but 24.5 points is a lot against a team that could get the offense in motion. I suspect a backdoor cover is on the horizon in this game, but this won’t be before there is enough points in this game to hit the OVER. I feel this is a bit too low, I think it should be in the 58-62 range.
PICK: OVER 52 POINTS (-110)