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GAMEDAY: Hogs, Frogs a fairly even matchup

In the first real test of either team, it likely will come down to the depth on each team and TCU might have the slightest of edges there.

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On paper at least, TCU is a good matchup for Arkansas in terms of overall talent … at least in terms of rankings.

That means it comes down to coaches. I’m not necessarily talking about Gary Patterson vs. Bret Bielema. That one is pretty even, too. Each has a win.

Patterson beat Bielema in the Rose Bowl after the 2010 season while Bielema won a rather meaningless regular season game last year in double overtime.

As I don’t follow the traditional media theory that what a team did last year means anything this year, the fact of the matter is, well, we have no idea about either team.

Both played opponents last week that were inferior to what either team sees in practice. I don’t care what the coaches said before and after those games, neither one of those teams would have fared any better against the second team of either the Hogs or Frogs.

That makes this week the true season opener for both teams.

For the Razorbacks, hopes are high this season. Up to this point it’s almost sounded like the coaches and players are trying to convince themselves they are a better team over last year, but not even they know themselves.

TCU has an established coach in Patterson with a proven system. In his 16 years in Fort Worth he has become the winningest coach in school history.

The Frogs have only had three losing seasons in that time while putting up 10 seasons with 10 wins or more.

Think about that for a minute. In his second year, TCU won 10 games and in the third, they won 11. Yes, they were in a non-Power 5 conference, but you have to play who you have to play and they won double digits.

While playing in the Mountain West Conference, TCU finished seasons ranked in the Top 10 nationally four times.

After the move to the Big 12, the Frogs finished No. 3 in 2014 and No. 7 in 2015.

Yes, Patterson has proven he can put together good teams that can figure into the national championship discussion on a fairly consistent basis.

Bielema is still trying to put together a winning program at Arkansas. Using the recurring theme of “raising the bar,” you get the idea he knows in his fifth year wins are something he needs more than anything.

They meet today and it’s an intriguing matchup.

We’ve heard about how improved and good freshman guard Ty Clary is for the Hogs. But he’s still a freshman and TCU’s defense is not easy for experienced players.

As they don’t have overwhelmingly big or physical linemen, Patterson took a page out of Tom Landry’s old Dallas Cowboys Flex defense and backs the lineman up a yard or so.

That creates a nightmare for offensive linemen used to blocking players in one spot now located four to six feet further back and no way to get their hands on them before they get some momentum going.

Arkansas struggled with that last year in Fort Worth, especially in the second half. According to people who know more than me, they are a vastly improved defensive team this year with a change in defensive coordinators (former Hog Dick Bumpas retired).

We will find out if the Razorbacks’ offense is ready for the SEC grind. Struggling against TCU will be a bad omen.

The guess here is the Hogs will start the game with some offensive success. If they don’t, it could be a very long day because Patterson’s staff has always been one of the best at making adjustments as a game rolls along.

But the other side of the coin is the most important and will, I think, ultimately decide the winner of the game.

Arkansas’ new 3-4 scheme is supposed to slow down fast-break offenses like TCU. I’m still skeptical.

You just wonder if there is enough speed at linebacker and experience in the secondary to consistently handle a fast-break, pitch-and-catch game like the Frogs will use with a fifth-year quarterback in Kenny Hill, who has shown an ability to play his best when the game is the biggest.

In the end, that’s what it’s going to come down to: Which fifth-year senior quarterback can make the big plays when they are needed the most?

The heart wants to say Arkansas. You want to believe this team is vastly improved from last year, but I haven’t seen it with my own eyes.

TCU DID look much faster and the defense did pitch a shutout against Jackson State last week while the Hogs’ second-teamers gave up a score to Florida A&M.

And that is what I think will be the difference.

I think the Frogs’ depth is better and it’s going to be about a touchdown difference this year.

The pick here is TCU 45, Arkansas 38 in a shootout.

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