The once-dormant rivalry game between No. 15 Texas and Arkansas will come back to life Saturday. It will look like college football is both turning back the clock and looking forward to the future as the former Southwest Conference rivals will meet in advance of reuniting in the Southeastern Conference. But for now, we’ll have to settle for a marquee nonconference game that should be one of the more exciting matchups in Week 2 of the college football season.
Texas looked impressive in its first game under first-year coach Steve Sarkisian, crushing Louisiana 38-18 behind a monster day from star running back Bijan Robinson. Arkansas, on the other hand, struggled through three quarters in its opener against Rice and at one point trailed the Owls 17-7 halfway through the third quarter. But Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson accounted for two touchdowns as part of 31 unanswered points in the final 23 minutes to pull away 38-17 and start the season 1-0.
The Longhorns and Razorbacks have played 78 times, 73 of which came before Arkansas left for the SEC following the 1991 season. Texas holds a 56-22 advantage. However, Arkansas beat Texas 31-7 in the most recent matchup at the 2014 Texas Bowl. What can we expect from this game? Here are the storylines to follow and picks from our group of experts.
Texas vs. Arkansas: Need to know
Historic rivalry: While these two teams have not played in the same conference for 30 years, Texas and Arkansas remain bitter rivals. Most notably, the pair played the 1969 “Game of the Century” that eventually led to Texas’ second national championship. Ask many Razorbacks fans who were around for the Southwest Conference and they will tell you Texas still remains Arkansas’ fiercest rival. Fans look forward to renewing the rivalry when the SEC expands.
Exceeding expectations: Last season, Arkansas coach Sam Pittman took over a program that went 4-20 under former coach Chad Morris, including an 0-16 mark in SEC play. Despite playing an SEC-only schedule, the Razorbacks won three games and lost to Missouri, LSU and Auburn by a combined seven points. Because of the progress, Arkansas is a potential breakout team in the SEC in 2021.
The Bijan show: Robinson entered the 2021 football season as a dark horse contender for the Heisman Trophy. Through one game, Robinson has lived up to the hype. The Arizona native rushed for 103 yards and a touchdowns while adding another 73 yards receiving and a score. Sarkisian was comfortable moving Robinson all over the field to get him the ball in unique ways, whether it was motioning him to the flat, lining him up at receiver or attacking the middle of the field. Arkansas must be prepared for anything.
Run first: Jefferson was inconsistent in his first start, throwing for just 128 yards with a touchdown and an interception. However, Arkansas’ running game looked solid early against a decent Rice defensive front. Trelon Smith rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown without a negative play. Jefferson added 89 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on the ground, including a 34-yard scamper in the first quarter. Pittman is an offensive line coach by trade, so expect Arkansas to lean heavily on their front.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 11 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium — Fayetteville, Arkansas
TV: ESPN | Live stream: (Try for free)