Preview: This Little Piggy Went to Austin

Current Longhorns are too young to recall when Texas and Arkansas teed-it-up on a regular basis. In fact, they can barely remember the last time the Hogs came calling just five years ago. But Texas' home loss to Arkansas in 2003 did more to reconfigure the current state of Longhorn football than people realize.

"I've really never heard about it (former rivalry) in the three years I've been here," said DT Aaron Lewis.

No, but we're still seeing the ripple effects of when unranked Arkansas bullied No. 5 Texas in a game more one-sided than the 38-28 verdict. That day, the Hogs bludgeoned Texas for 265 rushing yards while holding the home team to 62 yards on the ground. Razorback QB Matt Jones completed half of his 16 attempts for 173 yards. Later that night, Texas coach Mack Brown began scheming on ways to overhaul his offense; he also parted ways with defensive coordinator Carl Reese and interior offensive line coach Tim Nunez at season's end. In short, the 2003 Arkansas game was a watershed moment in Brown's tenure. The wheels were already turning prior to Texas' historic loss to Oklahoma a couple of weeks later. Brown's current emphases on zone runs and shotgun passes out of a spread offense, as well as his commitment to defensive upgrades during the past several seasons, stem from that miserable September 10th afternoon in Austin.

In 2004, Texas was very fortunate to survive Fayetteville with a two-point nail-biter. DT Larry Dibbles forced a Matt Jones fumble that Safety Phillip Geiggar recovered at the Razorback eight with little more than two minutes remaining. The Hogs reached the Texas 48 in the waning seconds but Geiggar's INT at the Texas 12 preserved the win.

But this is not your grandfather's Arkansas team (in fact, Felix Jones and Darren McFadden would hardly recognize it). First-year coach Bobby Petrino, with his third team in as many seasons, is changing the complexion of Razorback football. Petrino insists he seeks a balanced attack but the Hogs are putting the ball in the air like never before. Traditionally a power running team, Arkansas leads its league in passing offense (No. 16 nationally) with 286.0 ypg. The Hogs have led the SEC in rushing five of the past six years; heading into Saturday's match-up, the Hogs rank No. 93 nationally (No. 10 SEC) in rushing offense at 117.0 ypg.

Arkansas is one of college football's youngest teams facing one of college football's toughest schedules. The growing pains from a transitional season is evident. The Hogs had to rally from double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter against lightly-regarded Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe. Arkansas then entered a stretch where it plays three Top 10 teams in succession, starting with last Saturday's home loss to Alabama, 49-14.

"Arkansas is just really young," observed defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who became a YouTube celebratory following his sideline oratory as an Auburn assistant against Arkansas. "They have a lot of freshmen who are really talented. They just haven't played a lot."

Muschamp paused before adding, "It sounds familiar."

Indeed, Muschamp's defense lists 11 freshmen, including five true freshman, on this week's depth chart. The three-deep chart at both safeties consists entirely of freshmen. Yet, the Razorbacks have played a total of 16 true freshmen, and six redshirt freshmen, during their first three ballgames. Only Florida State and Miami have played more true freshmen than Arkansas this season.

Relative to the big, physical and more experienced Arkansas squad that Texas faced in 2003, Razorback fans may consider spending less time calling the Hogs as they do counting their little piggies. On Saturday, at least, Texas is determined to send this little piggies wee, wee,wee-ing all the way home.

A year ago, this shaped up as an offensive showdown between the McFadden/Jones combo versus Big 12 rushing leader Jamaal Charles. All three, of course, are playing Sundays while Arkansas is playing a new brand of football. The power running game has transitioned to 277 passing ypg (NCAA No. 16). Petrino strives for balance but, so far, the yards have come through the air.

"Bob Petrino does a great job of scheming within the concepts of what they do and then tweaking them week-to-week based on what he sees against you," Muschamp said. "They're a very balanced team. They want to run and they want to have play-action off their running game. They do a good job in the drop-back game."

Senior QB Casey Dick (an Allen, Tex. product) is 53-of-99 this season for 584 yards, including seven TDs and four INTs. The Hogs struggled during their first two contests, but Dick notched the first back-to-back 300-yard passing games in program history. It is Arkansas' Dick (not Florida's Tim Tebow or Georgia's Matt Stafford) who currently leads the SEC in total offense at 288.3 ypg.

Turnovers and special teams breakdowns resulted in Arkansas' lopsided loss to Alabama last weekend, Muschamp said. Those turnovers can largely be attributed to mistakes made by Arkansas' young receivers, Muschamp noted.

"That was a huge swing, especially for a team that's had a coaching change and is playing a lot of young players. Every game is different, and that game took an identity of its own. They've moved the ball all year and they moved the ball against Alabama. But their turnovers were just costly."

When Dick goes up top, he usually looks for his tight end. D.J. Williams has grabbed five balls in each of Arkansas' first three games and is the team-leader in catches (15), receiving yards (217) and touchdowns (two).

Dick operates behind the best center in college football (2007 Rimington Trophy winner Jonathan Luigs) while the O-line has given up 10 sacks through three contests.

The running game is showing signs of life. Junior tailback Michael Smith leads the Razorbacks with 248 yards on 41 carries the past two outings (Smith was suspended for the home-opener for a disciplinary issue related to textbooks).

Texas' RBs should find room to roam against an Arkansas run defense that is ranked 94th nationally (185.3 ypg). The 33.3 ppg (No. 101 in scoring defense) is a bit misleading given the offensive turnovers and special teams breakdowns. Overall, the Hogs rank 55th nationally in total defense (335.0 ppg).

RS-freshman MLB Jerry Franklin leads his team with 27 tackles, ranking third in the SEC with nine stops per game. The defense got a boost last week when fellow linebacker Freddy Burton returned from a two-game suspension and recorded a team-best 16 tackles against Alabama.

Sophomore CB Ramon Broadway's INT against Alabama is Arkansas' only pick of the season.

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