Thanks to the feverish efforts of Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger, a group of Texas and Arkansas fans were able to come together recently and discuss the Longhorns and Razorbacks in a spirit of good cheer and non-violence. Surely a Nobel Peace Prize awaits these masters of diplomacy for their efforts. Specifically, we here at Razorback Expats exchanged questions with Peter Bean, co-editor of Burnt Orange Nation, an outstanding Longhorns blog. Read below to get the lowdown on the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s Texas squad, how the rivalry with Arkansas isn’t such a huge deal to most Longhorn fans (prepare to be outraged!), and where Hogs fans making the trip to Austin can find a drink to ease the pain they are likely to feel after Saturday’s game. (To see our responses to Peter’s questions, just click here.)
Give us a quick scouting report on this year’s Texas team: strengths, weaknesses, etc.
Quick and dirty: The offense has been a one-man show behind Colt McCoy (who leads the team in rushing and is third nationally in passer rating), the offensive line is good and getting better, we have two steady seniors at wideout, and question marks beyond that. Of particular concern is the mediocre start from the running backs; Texas fans are desperately hoping the explosive Fozzy Whittaker gets healthy quickly.
Defensively, Texas is giving up yards, but not points. As my co-author notes, however, it doesn’t look sustainable as the competition stiffens. This young group is going to take some licks as it grows up.
What are the fan’s expectations for this year’s team?
I wrote a lengthy post on just this topic back in June, urging Longhorns fans to view 2008 as a chance to build for a national title run in 2009. That’s not to say this year’s team can’t be great, but at least three teams on Texas’ schedule (OU, Missouri, Texas Tech) are hitting peaks in the cycle, while Texas is young and building towards a peak in ‘09.
I think a lot of fans are behind that idea, but make no mistake about it: the vast majority of Texas fans (’09 enthusiasts included) expect this year’s team to finish no worse than 9-3 or 10-2. So expectations remain very high.
What Longhorn player or players is poised to have a big game against Arkansas?
This one’s tough to figure without first asking you guys whether your pass defense is as good as the numbers indicate (or if you’ve just faced mediocre QBs). If your secondary is strong, Arkansas may actually have a shot to frustrate Texas’ offensive machine, which has rolled behind McCoy’s stellar play despite the lack of meaningful help from the tailbacks. One offensive player to watch will be Fozzy Whittaker, if he’s healthy: He pretty clearly seems The Guy that the ‘Horns will need to break out from the tailback position, and he has the talent to do it.
Defensively, Razorback fans should worry about how to stop Lamarr Houston and Sergio Kindle, both of whom are going to spend a lot of time in your backfield if your offensive line play through three games is any indication of what we can expect on Saturday.
We can only assume that the Longhorns and their fans are quaking with fear as the mighty Hogs get set to roll into Austin. Is there anything about the way the Hogs match up with Texas that causes you concern?
As noted in the previous answer, if Arkansas can slow down Texas’ passing offense, the Longhorns aren’t rushing the ball well yet and it’s plausible Arkansas could make a game of things.
Hard to believe, but it’s been 17 years since Arkansas last played football in the Southwest Conference. All these years later, what level of animosity/rivalry do Texas fans’ feel towards Arkansas? When it comes to the teams you hate, are we even on your radar screen anymore?