Razorbacks Wrap Up: Mid-Season Review


In the words of the legendary Stan Lee, “Greetings true believers!” Because, by the midway point of the football season that’s all that is left on the Hog bandwagon that was looking kind of full to start the year.

Now usually, this is where I start giving you all kinds of fun, water-cooler stats, that compare the Hogs upcoming opponent for the week. However, the Hogs have a much needed bye week. So hopefully everyone is just going to be in an ice bath/oxygen tent/bubble wrap/etc till next week.

Sadly, as I mentioned, we’ve reached around the half way mark of college football. Trying to not go to far out on a limb here, but 2-4 on the season isn’t exactly where the Hogs had hoped to be at this point. Many people and media personalities (myself included) before the season predicted the Hogs being 5-1 and at worst 4-2, with losses at Alabama and/or Tennessee. Well, that’s not exactly what happened. Below is a GIF that pretty much sums up the first half of the season, from the big smiles and optimism followed quickly by the drop of despair and doom.

In what was a cruel foreshadowing of things to come, Jonathan Williams broke his foot and was deemed out for the season, before the first game. However, after the UTEP game the Razorbacks were victims of a terrible injury bug, and while you can train and condition for many things, no amount of either can help prevent broken bones. Roughly 5 key starters/role players, are out with broken bones. Our number 1 RB and our number 1-3 WR’s (Hatcher, Cornelius and Hollister) went down with broken feet and arms. Also, the Hogs lost then starting MLB Josh Williams, to a broken leg in a already thin LB corp. 

Combine that with the surprising lost to Toledo in Little Rock, who as of this writing, is actually in the top 25 in both Coaches and the AP poll. Followed by ANOTHER surprise loss to a better than expected Texas Tech (who is also in the receiving votes category for the top 25) who not only beat the Hogs in Fayetteville, but if not for some divine intervention, were a RB in the right place at the right (or wrong depending on who you were rooting for.) time away from beating number 3 TCU.  It seemed like not only had the wheels came off the wagon, but it had flipped upside down, caught fire and gone off a Kliff.

In week 4 however, the Hogs took off to Jerry world in Dallas to face the Aggie’s of Texas A&M, who are now in the top 10. The Hogs once again blew a lead in the 4th quarter and lost in overtime in pretty much the same fashion as last year. (Bright side: it took them 2 plays compared to last years 1 play in OT to score!) During the game however, a reshuffling of the defense took place, the biggest move being Brooks Ellis being moved from the weakside linebacker back to his home of middle linebacker where he played outstanding last year. True freshman Dre Greenlaw took over at weakside, and the defense has looked much improved because of it.

Give credit to Robb Smith for making that change, as it sparked something inside the unit, that went into rocky top and looked a lot more like the team that won 3-out-of-4 games last season. They held the best rushing QB in the SEC to only 7 yards on the ground, while the offensive line finally stared to gel and look like the force everyone thought they could be. (It was probably the whole pound cake every night for Dan Skipper) Opening holes for Alex Collins and Rawleigh Williams, who each rushed their way to 100 yard games. The Hogs finally GOT AN SEC ROAD WIN ON ROCKY TOP! It was the first win in Neyland Stadium for the Razorbacks since 1992, and Bret Bielema’s first road SEC win in his tenure at Arkansas. While the Vol’s are having struggles of their own this season, which could be an entire article on its own, it showed everyone that while this team is batted and bruised it wasn’t going to quit on their fans or coaches.

This brings us to last Saturday’s game. The Hogs were heading into Bryant-Denny Stadium to face off with Alabama, who has been the one hump Arkansas has not been able to get over the past decade, as the Tide are now 8-0 after Saturday against the Hogs. The Razorbacks got ridiculously close last year, losing 14-13, and while the 27-14 score this year doesn’t look to impressive at first glance, Arkansas gave Alabama all they wanted and then some for 3 quarters and change. The game ball goes to the entire defensive unit, who forced two turnovers and the only SEC team so far to hold Derrick Henry under 100 yards this season, while holding Alabama under 7 points for most of the game. Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, well… just click here.

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Coming after the bye week this week (betting tip: take the under) Auburn comes to town, and I would expect the defense to have another impressive showing, we’ll take a closer look as those numbers next week. However, Auburn is a team that’s having a identity crisis and poor QB play, which is thing that makes the Gus Bus go. Meanwhile, the Defense is giving up nearly 27 points a game so the Hogs could bounce back in a big way come next week.

Finally, since we’re at the half way point, lets just take a look at a few overall rankings for the Hogs  so far this year.

On Offense:

98th nationally and 11th in the SEC in points per game at just under 24. OM leads the SEC with almost 47 points a game.

31st nationally and 5th in the SEC in total yards with 2,600. OM again leads the conference with 3167.

46th nationally and 6th in the SEC in total rushing yards with 1,064. LSU leads the SEC with 1732 rushing yards.

29th nationally and 3rd in the SEC in passing yards with 1,536. OM takes the top spot with 2,037 yards.

OVERVIEW: the Hogs rank in the top 50 nationally in both passing and rushing yards. Coach Bielema wants to be a balanced offense and so far, seems to be on the right track on doing that, although he probably wants that rushing number to be higher. Another thing the Hogs have GOT to get better in the Red Zone, they’re 119th in the country in Red Zone scoring, converting only 64% of the time.

On Defense:
47th nationally and 7th in the SEC in points given up per game with 23. MO leads the SEC only giving up 15.6 per game.

53rd nationally and 9th in the SEC in total defense with 365 yards allowed per game. AL takes the top spot with 264.5 yards allowed per game.

20th nationally and 4th in the SEC for rushing defense with 107 yards allowed on the ground per game. AL leads the SEC with 77/game

99th nationally and 14th in passing yards allowed with 258 per game. MO leads the SEC only allowing 163 yards per game.

OVERVIEW: While the Razorbacks defense on paper doesn’t look to eye popping, the last 3 games they have really turned it on. They still only allow around 10 points total in the 2nd half, which is among the best in the country. The passing yards number is also a direct reflection of how good our run D is and the type of opponents the Hogs have faced. So far, 4 teams out of the 6 the Hogs have faced pride themselves on the passing game. That number should even out by the end of the year if defense continues to improve at the rate it is.

So to “wrap up” the Razorbacks have to win 4 out of the next 6 games to go bowling, after a injury plagued and disappointing first half of the season. Auburn, UT-Martin, Ole Miss, LSU, Miss. State and Mizzou are all left on the schedule. At least 4 of those are VERY winnable. I think the Hogs WILL go bowling this year, and believe Coach B and Co. have shown they can make the adjustments to get the most out of this team. This team has shown it won’t quit on its fans and coaches, so hopefully Razorback nation can return the favor by not quitting on them, there’s still a lot of football to be played.

As Stan Lee would say, “Woo Pig Excelsior!”

Next: Put the Bielema Bashing to Bed