The Tennessee Tech football team will once again – make that twice again – take on a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. The Golden Eagles will open their 2010 season with back-to-back games against Arkansas and Texas Christian University. The season kicks off in Fayetteville, Ark. on Sept. 4th with the Razorbacks out of the Southeastern Conference then continues on Sept. 11th against the Horned Frogs of TCU from the Mountain West Conference.
Arkansas, projected to be ranked in the top 20 to start the season, returns 17 starters from last year’s 8-5 team. Among those is quarterback Ryan Mallett who led the SEC in total offense and passing efficiency last season. The Razorbacks were the top scoring team in the conference, averaging 37.3 points per game. They were also ranked second to Florida with 439.3 yards per game.
“Arkansas will be a pretty big game,” said junior running back Henry Sailes. “The SEC has a lot of speed and size.”
After playing one of the best offensive teams in the nation, Tech will have to regroup quickly as it travels to Fort Worth the next week to face TCU (12-1 in 2009). The Horned Frogs have led the NCAA in total defense the past two years, holding opponents to just 239.69 yards per game last season.
TCU returns 16 starters including nine All-MWC players and is projected to be ranked in the top seven to start the year.
The defense does take a hit this year, losing two All-MWC cornerbacks in Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders.
“It’s going to be pretty good competitive game,” said Sailes. “I think it will help us out mentally.”
Tech head coach Watson Brown said the games serve two purposes. “It’s a two thought process,” he said. “The kids love them.”
The games also serve a financial purpose, however.
“We need the money,” Brown said. “We’re not going to keep playing two [FBS teams] a year, but right now, financially, we just have to do this.”
For the players, on the other hand, it’s not about the money.
“The coaches ain’t real fond of it,” Brown said. “But the kids want to go play in the nice places and play against the best players and see what they can do.”
“Playing big schools will help us see where we are at the beginning of the season,” Sailes said.
Junior linebacker Charlie Seivers thinks the team is ready.
“I think we’re up for the challenge,” he said. “It’s exciting for a smaller school to get to play a [FBS team].
“It teaches us a lot and those are the games that you’re obviously going to be the underdog, but you’re going to learn a lot when the odds are all against you,” he continued. “It’s a good learning experience.”
Brown considers the Arkansas and TCU games to be a sort of pre-season.
“We treat those games as a different season, really,” he said. “We have to get back from the Arkansas and TCU games and basically start our real season at that point.”
This will mark the first time the Golden Eagles have ever met either of the two teams.
“If we just come back from those games and don’t have injuries, I think we’re a better football team because we lined up against the best players we’re going to play all year long,” said Brown. “When you line up against a better player, you get better.”
Tech finished 6-5 last season and went undefeated at home, finishing second in the Ohio Valley Conference standings. The Golden Eagles are scheduled to play Iowa in 2011.