2019 Arkansas opponent capsules

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, August 25, 2019
Jarques McClellion, Arkansas cornerback, tackles Olabisi Johnson, Colorado State wide receiver, in the 2nd quarter Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo.
Photo by Ben Goff
Jarques McClellion, Arkansas cornerback, tackles Olabisi Johnson, Colorado State wide receiver, in the 2nd quarter Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo.

PORTLAND STATE

DATE Aug. 31

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2018 RECORD 4-7, 3-5 Big Sky Conference

COACH Bruce Barnum (19-29 in four seasons at Portland State)

RETURNING STARTERS 9 offense, 8 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Davis Alexander, TE Charlie Taumoepeau, RB Carlos Martin, DT Kenton Bartlett

OUTLOOK Bruce Barnum has seen the good and bad times at Portland State heading into his fifth season. In 2015, he led Portland State to a 9-3 record — including victories at Washington State and North Texas — and the FCS playoffs. He won Big Sky and national coach of the year honors. The Vikings then endured an 0-11 season in 2017. They began working their way back with a 4-7 finish last season and are looking to have a winning record with 17 starters back. Portland State is playing Arkansas for the first time. Junior quarterback Davis Alexander leads the offense after passing for 1786 yards and 11 touchdowns, and rushing for 424 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

OLE MISS

DATE Sept. 7

PLACE Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.

2018 RECORD 5-7, 1-7 SEC

COACH Matt Luke (11-13 in two seasons at Ole Miss)

RETURNING STARTERS 3 offense, 8 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Matt Corral, RB Scottie Phillips, LB Qaadir Sheppard, DT Benito Jones

OUTLOOK Matt Luke added star power to his coaching staff by hiring two former head coaches — Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre — as assistant coaches. Rodriguez, who had a lot of success at West Virginia and less at Michigan and Arizona, is the new offensive coordinator. MacIntyre, who couldn’t sustain success at Colorado, is the defensive coordinator. Both previously were Pac-12 coaches of the year with the Wildcats and Buffaloes. Rodriguez will break in a new starting quarterback with redshirt freshman Matt Corral, who passed for 239 yards and two touchdowns last season when he played in four games to retain his redshirt. He also is a running threat. MacIntrye has a lot of experience on defense, but the Rebels must adjust to his 3-4 scheme.

COLORADO STATE

DATE Sept. 14

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2018 RECORD 3-9, 2-6 Mountain West Conference

COACH Mike Bobo (24-27 in four seasons at Colorado State)

RETURNING STARTERS 5 offense, 6 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Collin Hill, RB Marcus McElroy, FS Jamal Hicks, DE Emmanuel Jones

OUTLOOK Not much went right for Colorado State last season, but the obvious highlight was the Rams’ 34-27 victory over Arkansas when they rallied from an 18-point deficit. CSU’s only other victories were against San Jose State and New Mexico, and the Rams finished the season on a five-game losing streak. It was CSU’s first losing season under Coach Mike Bobo — a former Georgia quarterback and offensive coordinator — after the Rams went to bowl games in his first three seasons. Junior quarterback Collin Hill is back to lead the offense. He played off the bench the first eight games last season after recovering from knee surgery, but started the final four games. In that span, he passed for 1,099 yards and 5 touchdowns along with 6 interceptions. Senior safety Jamal Hicks had 93 tackles.

San JOSE STATE

DATE Sept. 21

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2018 RECORD 1-11, 1-7 Mountain West Conference

COACH Brent Brennan (3-22 in two seasons at San Jose State)

RETURNING STARTERS 7 offense, 5 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Josh Love, RB Tyler Nevens, LB Ethan Aguayo, DE Cade Hall

OUTLOOK San Jose State had an even worse season in 2018 than Arkansas. While the Razorbacks went 2-10, the Spartans were 1-11. At least San Jose State was more competitive in most games last season than in 2017, when the Spartans were 2-11. They lost by an average of 32.5 points in 2017, but by just 17.5 last season. This is expected to be another tough season for San Jose State, which is ranked No. 120 among all FBS teams by Lindy’s. Senior Josh Love gives the Spartans an experienced quarterback. He passed for 1,963 yards and 14 touchdowns last season when he was limited to 8 games because of injuries. Love returned for spring practice. San Jose State figures to have to rely heavily on Love’s passing, because the Spartans averaged 61.5 rushing yards per game last season to rank last in the nation. The Spartans return their top two tacklers in senior linebackers Ethan Aguayo (106) and Jesse Osuna (93).

TEXAS A&M

DATE Sept. 28

PLACE AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

2017 RECORD 9-4, 5-3 SEC

COACH Jimbo Fisher (9-4 in one season at Texas A&M, 92-27 in nine seasons overall)

RETURNING STARTERS 7 offense, 4 defense

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS QB Kellen Mond, WR Quartney Davis, DT Justin Madubuike, P Braden Mann

OUTLOOK Texas A&M has owned Arkansas since joining the SEC. The Aggies are 7-0 against the Razorbacks in SEC games, including three victories in overtime. The Razorbacks were 41-23 in the series before the Aggies joined the SEC, and Arkansas won the teams’ only three nonconference games — in 2009, 2010 and 2011 — when the former Southwest Conference rivals renewed their series. Junior quarterback Kellen Mond is entrenched as the Aggies’ starter, which led to Nick Starkel’s decision to transfer from Texas A&M to Arkansas. Mond passed for 3,107 yards last season and rushed for 474, but he also was sacked 34 times and had 9 interceptions. He has two talented targets in junior wide receivers Quartney Davis (45 catches, 585 yards, 7 touchdowns last season) and Kendrick Rogers (27 catches, 336 yards, 5 touchdowns). With Trayveon Williams moving on to the NFL after rushing for 3,615 yards in three seasons, sophomore Jashaun Corbin — who had 61 carries for 346 yards last year — is expected to be the Aggies’ top running threat. The defense is led by junior tackle Justin Madubuike, who had 10.5 sacks last season.

KENTUCKY

DATE Oct. 12

PLACE Kroger Field, Lexington, Ky.

2018 RECORD 10-3, 5-3 SEC

COACH Mark Stoops (36-39 in six seasons at Kentucky and overall)

RETURNING STARTERS 4 offense, 4 defense

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS QB Terry Wilson, WR Lynn Bowden, LB Kash Daniel, NG Quinton Bohanna

OUTLOOK Kentucky’s football team had a season in 2018 that would make the Wildcats’ basketball team proud. Kentucky won 10 games for the first time since 1977 and beat Penn State 27-24 in the Citrus Bowl. But duplicating that season figures to be tough for the Wildcats after they lost 13 starters, including two of the top players in the country in linebacker Josh Allen and running back Benny Snell. But Kentucky should be in contention to play in a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season thanks to good recruiting classes by Coach Mark Stoops, who was afforded patience by the UK administration to build a solid program. Junior Terry Wilson, a dual threat at quarterback, is a returning starter. He passed for 1,889 yards and 11 touchdown, and rushed for 547 yards and 4 touchdowns last season. Junior wide receiver Lynn Bowden is a dynamic player. He had 67 catches for 745 yards last season and returned two punts for touchdowns. Senior middle linebacker Kash Daniel had 84 tackles last season.

AUBURN

DATE Oct. 19

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2018 RECORD 8-5, 3-5 SEC

COACH Gus Malzahn (53-27 in six seasons at Auburn, 62-30 overall in seven seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 6 offense, 7 defense

KEY PLAYERS DT Derrick Brown, DE Nick Coe, OT Prince Tega Wanogho, RB JaTarvious Whitlow

OUTLOOK Gus Malzahn is on most coaching hot-seat lists, but his teams have a history of bouncing back from disappointing seasons. Malzahn led the Tigers to a 12-2 record and the SEC championship in 2013 after Auburn was 3-9 in 2012. In 2017, the Tigers went 10-4 and won the SEC West when Malzahn also was on the hot seat after seasons of 8-5, 7-6 and 8-5. The Tigers should be tough and physical on defense as usual, led by tackle Derrick Brown, and ends Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson. They also have all five starters back on the offensive line, led by tackle Prince Tega Wanogho. The key to the season likely will be finding a reliable starting quarterback. The top candidates are redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix, an early enrollee who went through spring practice. The SEC schedule is tough as always, but the Tigers at least get Georgia and Alabama at home. They have an open date before their road trip to Arkansas. A victory over Oregon in the season opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, could lift the Tigers into the top 10 nationally.

ALABAMA

DATE Oct. 26

PLACE Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

2018 RECORD 14-1, 8-0 SEC

COACH Nick Saban (146-21 in 12 seasons at Alabama, 232-63-1 overall in 23 seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 6 offense, 6 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Tua Tagovailoa, WR Jerry Jeudy, RB Najee Harris, LB Dylan Moses

OUTLOOK Only Alabama could win an SEC championship, reach the College Football Playoff for the fifth consecutive year, win the Orange Bowl and consider it a disappointing season. The disappointment after a 14-0 start came in a shocking 44-16 loss to Clemson in the national title game. That loss gave Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban plenty of material to use as motivation as he goes for his seventh national championship. The Tide lost a lot of talent to the NFL as usual, but they always reload thanks to top-rated recruiting classes. Junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is back after finishing runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting. He passed for 3,996 yards and 43 touchdowns last season with just 6 interceptions. Junior Najee Harris, who rushed for 783 yards last season, leads a talented group of running backs. Junior Jerry Jeudy had 68 catches for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago. Junior linebacker Dylan Moses (86 tackles last season) leads the defense. Alabama will be going for its 13th consecutive victory over Arkansas, which last beat the Tide 24-23 in double overtime in 2006.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

DATE Nov. 2

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2018 RECORD 8-5, 4-4 SEC

COACH Joe Moorhead (8-5 in one season at Mississippi State)

RETURNING STARTERS 6 offense, 3 defense

KEY PLAYERS RB Kylin Hill, C Darryl Williams, LB Erroll Thompson, CB Cameron Dantzler

OUTLOOK Joe Moorhead came to Mississippi State after an impressive run as Penn State’s offensive coordinator, but it was the defense that carried the Bulldogs last season while they struggled offensively in SEC play before blowing out Arkansas 52-6 and Ole Miss 35-3. Mississippi State lost eight starters on defense, so for the Bulldogs to reach a bowl game for the ninth consecutive year, they’ll likely need to get more production on offense. With the loss of Nick Fitzgerald, Moorhead needs to decide on his starting quarterback between junior Keytaon Thompson and Tommy Stevens, a graduate transfer from Penn State. Thompson passed for 458 yards and 6 touchdowns last season, and rushed for 226 yards and 4 touchdowns, so he has some experience. Junior running back Kylin Hill gained 734 yards on 117 carries — a 6.3 average — last season when he was slowed by a hamstring injury. Defensively, the Bulldogs will be led by junior linebacker Erroll Thompson, who had 87 tackles and 2 interceptions last season.

WESTERN KENTUCKY

DATE Nov. 9

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2018 RECORD 3-9, 2-6 Conference USA

COACH Tyson Helton (first season)

RETURNING STARTERS 10 offense, 6 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Ty Storey, WR Jacquez Sloan, WR Lucky Jackson, DE DeAngelo Malone

OUTLOOK Quarterback Ty Storey, who started nine games for Arkansas last season, might get one more start in Fayetteville this season — this time against his former school. Storey, a Charleston native, is now at Western Kentucky as a senior graduate transfer. He completed 143 of 250 passes for 1,584 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and also rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown. The Hilltoppers — who went to five bowl games in six years from 2012 through 2017 under coaches Willie Taggart, Bobby Petrino and Jeff Brohm — hope to return to the postseason under new Coach Tyson Helton, a former WKU offensive coordinator who held the same position at Tennessee last season. Helton replaces Mike Sanford, who was fired as coach after just two seasons when the Hilltoppers fell to 3-9 last season. Whoever wins the WKU starting quarterback job will have the entire starting offensive line returning and talented receivers in Lucky Jackson (50 catches for 552 yards last season) and Jacquez Sloan (31 for 495). Junior defensive end DeAngelo Malone had 60 tackles last season, including six sacks.

LSU

DATE Nov. 23

PLACE Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge

2018 RECORD 10-3, 5-3 SEC

COACH Ed Orgeron (25-9 in three seasons at LSU, 41-36 overall in seven seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 8 offense, 8 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Joe Burrow, SS Grant Delpit, LB Michael Divinity, CB Kristian Fulton

OUTLOOK This might be LSU’s best team since 2011, when the Tigers won their last SEC championship. There are eight returning starters on both sides of the ball and an experienced quarterback in senior Joe Burrow, who won the starting job last season as a graduate transfer from Ohio State. Burrow passed for 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns last season with just 5 interceptions. All of the top receivers are back, led by junior Justin Jefferson, who had 54 catches for 875 yards and 6 touchdowns. Tigers Coach Ed Orgeron, a former Arkansas graduate assistant, has promised to upgrade the passing game. He brought in Joe Barry, an NFL assistant with the New Orleans Saints, to make that happen. Steve Ensminger will continue to be the offensive coordinator and call the plays, but Barry has helped implement a Spread offense. The Tigers have their typical talent and speed on defense. Orgeron said he believes the defensive backs — led by safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Kristian Fulton — are the best group he’s ever been around. Linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, the Tigers’ best pass rusher, returns after suffering a season-ending knee injury in last season’s opener against Miami.

MISSOURI

DATE Nov. 29

PLACE War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

2018 RECORD 8-5, 4-4 SEC

COACH Barry Odom (19-19 in three seasons at Missouri)

RETURNING STARTERS 7 offense, 7 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Kelly Bryant, RB Larry Rountree, TE Albert Okwuegbunam, LB Cale Garrett

OUTLOOK Missouri won the Kelly Bryant sweepstakes, beating several teams — including Arkansas — for the graduate transfer senior quarterback from Clemson. Bryant will have a strong supporting cast with the Tigers as seven starters return on offense, including four linemen, sophomore running back Larry Rountree (1,216 rushing yards last season), senior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (43 catches for 466 yards) and senior receiver Johnathon Johnson (59 catches for 737 yards). The Tigers also added receiver Jonathan Nance, a senior graduate transfer from Arkansas. Nance led the Razorbacks with 37 catches for 539 yards in 2017, but in the first four games last year had just 1 reception for minus-2 yards. Four games into the season, Nance quit the team so he could redshirt and preserve a final season of eligibility. Senior linebacker Cale Garrett is back to lead the Missouri defense after having 106 tackles last season. Senior cornerback DeMarkus Acy had three interceptions last season along with 25 tackles. The Tigers are going for their third consecutive victory over the Razorbacks, and are 4-1 against Arkansas since joining the SEC.

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