Time: 4 PM
Spread: ARK -25
M/L: ARK -4000, LT +2000
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
Louisiana Tech finished last season 9-4 and won five of its final six games, including its 47-28 New Orleans Bowl victory over Arkansas State. The Bulldogs return six offensive starters and three defensive, and Skip Holtz enters his fourth year as head coach. Hotlz has posted a 22-17 record in the previous three seasons, the most successful of which was last year.
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The Bulldogs launched the football all over the field, and a team heavily reliant on the passing game will become even more so reliant with ball carrier Kenneth Dixon, the team’s all-time leading rusher, gone.
The offense has a new OC in Todd Fitch, and he will look to replace Dixon’s rushing by-committee. Boston Scott may be the best in the backfield, and he could be the leading ball carrier, but there is plenty of help.
QB Ryan Higgins started six games in 2013 and will have an outstanding group of wideouts to launch it to this year. Trent Taylor had 99 catches for 1,282 yards and nine TDs last season, and Carlos Henderson averaged 21.5 yards per catch en route to 774 total receiving yards. Alfred Smith and Kam McKnight will also play big roles after combining for 226 receiving yards in the spring game.
The OL is great on the left side, and Kirby Wixson should solidify the right side after recovering from an injury sustained last season. The other returning starters on the left are both Darrell Brown and O’Shea Dugas.
The Bulldogs need to improve defensively where they were roughly middle-of-the-pack last season. Louisiana Tech gave up 26.8 points and 375 yards per game last season, ranking No. 62 and No. 48 in the nation. The team does not return many starters, but the returning reserves are among the best in the Conference USA at their positions.
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The secondary returns some experience, but it will be tested at CB where it has Ephraim Kitchen and Roland Dunn, who are both good but pretty inexperienced.
Tech can make its third straight Bowl game this year and has the wideouts to really air it out once again. Higgins should be fully capable of milking the most out of them, and if the OL can improve and strengthen itself on the right side, there is no reason this all shouldn’t work out pretty well for the Bulldogs in 2016.
This week likely will not be pretty as 25-point dogs, but if the Bulldogs can establish some rhythm it faces South Carolina State next week in a more winnable game before facing Texas Tech in Week 3.
The Arkansas Razorbacks finished last season 8-5 and won its Liberty Bowl game 45-23 over Kansas State, closing the season by winning six of its final seven games. The offense returns just three starters, but the defense returns nine. With just two returning starters on the OL, the Razorbacks have a lot of work to do early this season in establishing some rhythm and chemistry to its offense.
Austin Allen was named the starter at QB, and he has three years backup experience that has prepared him for this role. He played behind his older brother Brandon Allen, and two years ago he was key in the second half of a 30-0 victory over Ole Miss.
Allen will hand it off frequently to senior RB Kody Walker, who dropped nine pounds in spring to become a quicker player, but has plenty of power still at 251 pounds. Walker’s broken foot will hold him out for some time still, and he underwent surgery in mid-April on it—causing him to miss spring.
His recovery is basically the key to the Razorbacks season.
Duwop Mitchell converted from QB to RB and true freshmen Devwah Whaley and TJ Hammonds will also see plenty of carries, but the Razorbacks need Walker to return sooner than later. This week will pose few challenges against Louisiana Tech, but the SEC schedule will do Arkansas no favors.
The defense was stronger last season, but the rebuilt OL poses a lot of questions for the Razorbacks and having a new QB is no small challenge either. This could be a step-back this year for Arkansas, but Week 1 should be a big victory as prognosticated by oddsmakers listing Arkansas as heavy favorites in this affair.
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