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Dr. Bob says: TCU should handle Arkansas

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Early-season underdogs can fare well, but TCU seems to have too much for Arkansas.

NCAA Football: South Dakota State at Texas Christian Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Stoll of Dr. Bob Sports is one of the most seasoned, successful sports handicappers around. He was one of the first to use advanced analytics in sports handicapping after studying statistics and finance at U.C. Berkeley. You can findhis historical college football performance here, and you can subscribe to his service here. He has agreed to share some of his lengthy, from-every-angle game previews here.

(This one is an example of his free analysis, but I just enjoyed it. — Bill)

TCU (-7) 33 Arkansas 22

Both of these teams looked bad last week, as TCU allowed 7.5 yards per play in a 59-41 win over South Dakota State and Arkansas managed just 4.4 yppl in a 21-20 win as a 24 ½ point favorite against a Louisiana Tech team playing without their starting quarterback (suspension).

While TCU’s defensive stats look bad they still have the talent and pedigree to be a good defense and South Dakota State is actually better offensively than an average FBS team. The Jackrabbits’ pass attack was 0.8 yards per pass play better than an average FBS team in 2014 and rated at +0.6 yppp last season and should be better this season. So, giving up 19 of 30 passing was not so bad and TCU is certainly not going to continue to allow 17.5 yards per completion, which is a highly variable stat. The run defense was actually very good aside from an 87 yard run that skewed the stats.

I still rate TCU as having a much better than average defense and they’ll likely show that against what I think will be a mediocre Arkansas offense.

NCAA Football: South Dakota State at Texas Christian Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

The Razorbacks’ new featured back Rawleigh Williams is now averaging just 4.4 ypr on his 80 career carries after managing only 4.0 ypr last week and new quarterback Austin Allen didn’t show the down the field ability of his older brother Brandon, who averaged a very good 14.1 yards per completion last season.

Austin averaged a pathetic 9.6 ypc with his longest completion going for just 18 yards. That average completion number is going to go up but it’s not going to be nearly as good as Brandon Allen averaged the last two years. My ratings project only 351 yards at 4.8 yards per play for the Hogs in this game.

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Arkansas
Austin Allen
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

While the TCU defense has an off day by giving up too many big plays, the Horned Frogs’ offense saved the day by racking up 662 yards at 7.7 yppl. That average is impressive even when considering that TCU faced a defense that would allow 6.5 yppl on the road to an average FBS attack.

Former Texas A&M starting quarterback Kenny Hill started slowly but came on strong and averaged 9.0 yards per pass play while the rushing attack was relatively mediocre at 6.0 yards per rushing play against a defense that would allow 6.0 yprp on the road to an average FBS team. There is certainly nothing wrong with the TCU offense. It probably won’t be as potent as it was last season but it will still be very good.

Arkansas is sturdy defensively with 9 starters returning to a unit that was mostly good last season but had a few really bad games. The Hogs’ ability to defend the run ranks among the best in the nation but the secondary was torched by good quarterbacks last season, allowing 8.1 yards per pass play to Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech, 10.3 yppp to Chad Kelly of Ole’ Miss and 9.5 yppp to Dak Prescott of Miss State.

The pass defense should be better this season but allowing 5.7 yppp to Louisiana Tech’s backup quarterback last week is not a good omen for this game against a very potent pass attack. My ratings project 7.9 yards per pass play for Hill in this game and 450 yards at 6.1 yards per play overall for the Horned Frogs’ offense.

NCAA Football: South Dakota State at Texas Christian
Kenny Hill
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, my ratings favor TCU by 13 points but Arkansas applies to an 85-36-2 ATS early season road underdog situation that will temper my enthusiasm for the Frogs in this game. I’m more interested now that the line has dropped to -7.