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Texas Bowl: Keys to the game for the Texas Longhorns

What the Longhorns need to do to pull off the upset in the Texas Bowl.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns will face off against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Monday night in the Texas Bowl in what should prove to be a tough match up for head coach Charlie Strong's squad.

Despite the fact that the Razorbacks also sit at 6-6 on the season and finished 2-6 in conference plays, head coach Bret Beliema's team is favored by nearly a touchdown against the Longhorns because Arkansas faced the toughest schedule in the country.

As a result of that tough schedule and some late-season success, S&P pegs Arkansas as the No. 20 nationally.

Here's a look at the keys for Texas to come out with an upset victory.

Start the game fast

Arkansas wants to run the ball, run the ball some more, and then throw in a few more running plays for good reason. Conventional wisdom holds that such teams don't want to fall behind early because early deficits force more passing and an abandonment of the running game.

When Georgia got off to a strong start against Arkansas back in the middle of October, it forced Arkansas to throw 45 passes, which is not a recipe for success for a Bret Beliema team. In fact, the Hogs didn't win a single game this year when attempting 28 or more passes, going 0-5 in those games.

For Texas, getting off to fast starts against West Virginia and Oklahoma State allowed the team to focus on the running game and minimize the exposure to sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in the passing game.

Get strong play from Tyrone Swoopes

There's a significant amount of pressure on the sophomore quarterback as he enters his 12th career start on Monday after he drew criticism from the coaching staff for his demeanor on the sidelines during the blowout loss against TCU on Thanksgiving that featured five turnovers.

If Swoopes starts out like he did against the Horned Frogs and commits multiple turnovers that set up short fields for the Hogs, the Horns won't have much of a chance to win the game.

The fact that the secondary is the most vulnerable part of the Arkansas defense also factors into the need for Swoopes to play at a high level in Houston -- starting safety Rohan Gaines was suspended for the contest and the remaining defensive backs contributed to giving up 18 passing plays of 30 or more yards.

Get the ball to John Harris

For Swoopes to have a strong game through the air, he's probably going to be finding senior wide receiver John Harris consistently. The breakout star of the 2014 season offensively for Texas, Harris became the first Texas skill position player to go over 1,000 yards of offense since wide receiver Jordan Shipley in 2009 when he gained 39 yards on five catches.

Not only is Harris the favorite target of the young quarterback, success through the air to Harris has translated into wins -- when the Garland Namaan Forest has more than 100 receiving yards, Texas is undefeated in those four games.

Otherwise, the Horns have limped to a 2-6 record.

Win standard downs defensively

On standard downs -- classified as first downs, second down and less than eight yards to go, and third downs of less than five yards -- the Razorbacks rank No. 29 nationally, in large part because the run game has averaged 5.22 yards per carry on first down, with 45 runs of 10 or more yards on 276 carries.

The success has continued on second down, as well -- Arkansas gained 4.96 yards per cary on second down.

If Texas can have success on first and second down, it could result in some long down-and-distance situations for the Hogs. While this is a key against any team, it's especially important against a team like Arkansas because the Razorbacks rarely turn the football over, but three of the five interceptions by starting quarterback Brandon Allen have come on third down, with all of those three coming when facing 3rd down and 10 or more.

With an interception rate of 1.6%, Allen doesn't make many mistakes. When he does, it's because he's forcing the ball into small windows in an attempt to convert 3rd down and long.

And two of those interceptions for Allen came against Georgia when attempting to come back, which further illustrates the need to start the game quickly.

Stop the Arkansas tight ends in the passing game

The second- and third-leading receivers for Arkansas are both tight ends who have combined for 48 catches for 798 yards and five touchdowns in 2014. Put together, sophomore Hunter Henry and senior AJ Derby have accounted for a solid 35% of the entire passing game for the Hogs.

Most of those catches come on play-action passes as defenses attempt to put extra players in the box to stop the potent running game for Arkansas, so the linebackers will have to keep their eyes right and avoid letting Henry and Derby slip behind them into open spots in the Texas defense.

The Texas safeties will also have to be cautious when attempting to control the Arkansas run game charging down they alley from deep alignments.

The Arkansas wide receivers probably won't be much of a threat to a secondary that didn't give up a single pass play of 40 or more yards on the season until TCU was able to complete some jump balls to wide receivers going up over smaller defensive backs, so it's hard to see Arkansas creating big plays in the passing game to a group of wide receivers that hasn't been particularly special this season.

The tight ends, however, are another story entirely.

Don't blow it on special teams

In the latter part of conference play, Texas was able to avoid many of the big mistakes that plagued the team on special teams earlier in the season, ranging from opponents creating long kickoff returns to blocking field goals to the poor Texas field position because of struggles on kickoff returns.

There's not much hope that the Horns will be able to create big plays on kickoff returns or on punt returns, so the key here is to make field goals from inside 45 yards, avoid giving up any blocked kicks or punts, and covering well on kickoff coverage and punt coverage.

Since Arkansas dismissed explosive return man Korliss Marshall, who returned a kick for a touchdown this season and averaged more than 30 yards per return, Texas should have a good shot of limiting Arkansas on kickoff returns.