Razorbacks should be competitive

Originally Published: September 9, 2004
By Todd McShay | Scouts, Inc.
These two football programs have not been conference foes since the Southwest Conference disassembled following the 1995 season, but the rivalry is as bitter as ever. During the waning moments of a 27-6 Arkansas victory over Texas in the 2000 Cotton Bowl, Razorbacks' head coach Houston Nutt was seen flashing a downward "hook 'em horns" sign. It infuriated Longhorns' fans but not as much as Arkansas' post-game celebration following last season's 38-28 upset at No. 6 Texas when the Razorbacks planted an Arkansas state flag near the north end zone of Royal-Memorial Stadium and took a team picture. Less than one year later, the Longhorns are looking to repay the favor at Razorback Stadium in front of ESPN's Primetime national audience.

Who: Texas (8) vs. Arkansas
When: Sat., 8:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.

Mack Brown's Longhorns are once again loaded with talent and overwhelmed by expectations. While beating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry is the ultimate, the Longhorns know they must snap a three-game losing streak in Arkansas in order to remain in the national title hunt.

RB Cedric Benson returns to carry the load and QB Vince Young is a huge running threat. But the Longhorns must replace three starting receivers, including Roy Williams. Young must also become a more consistent passer. The defense returns seven starters, including massive DT Rodrique Wright and WLB Derrick Johnson, who is the most athletic player at his position in the country. Greg Robinson, fired as defensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, was brought in to add some toughness to the group as a co-defensive coordinator.

Arkansas, which opened up the season with a blowout win over New Mexico State, has 17 new starters from the 2003 season. Because of the strong job Nutt has done in recruiting high school and junior college talent, the Razorbacks aren't exactly starting over. But it is safe to say that 2004 projects as a rebuilding year for the program.

QB Matt Jones is the Razorbacks only returning offensive starter from a season ago. While he is experienced and athletically gifted, he can't do it on his own. RBs DeCori Birmingham, De'Arrius Howard and Kyle Dickerson will all have to grow up quickly against Texas' defense. The defensive front seven is the strength of the team, which gives them a chance to keep Benson and Young in check. With four new starters in the secondary, a big key to the outcome of Saturday night's meeting will be the Razorback's ability to prevent the big play in the passing game.

Todd McShay

ESPN Senior Writer