July is close enough to football that fans start to focus in on the upcoming season, but far enough away that we still don’t really know anything about the team. So this is a perfect time to make some predictions!
The best thing about July predictions is that they’re far enough removed from the season that if I’m totally wrong, nobody will remember them anyway! It’s like a special gift to writers all over the country.
The Arkansas football team has a lot of question marks in key positions heading into the season. However, there are a whole lot of returning plays, specifically on defense. The Hogs bring back 9 of their 11 starters on defense, and are going to be depending on them to make stops and let the offense get into rhythm early in the season.
The problem is that the 2015 Arkansas defense was pretty bad at everything except stopping the interior run game, as long as the quarterback wasn’t the one doing the running. Then they were also bad at stopping the run game. So bringing back the 58th ranked overall defense in the nation, which was good enough for 11th in the SEC, and the 117th best (worst?) passing defense in the nation isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence in the media.
And that’s completely justifiable. Every time a different magazine or TV channel or personality picks the Arkansas Razorbacks to finish last in the SEC, the “no respect” comments come pouring in from fans. That’s just not fair. The Hogs had a bad defense in 2015, and the best parts of the offense have moved on to the NFL.
Speaking of the offense, anytime you have a first year starter at QB, red flags should go up. It’s hard to jump from the bench to starting in a conference with such stout defenses and shine. Also, the Razorbacks are having to replace Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, and Hunter Henry. That’s a lot of yards, touchdowns, and dependability to lose. Not to mention the loss of Mitch Smothers, Sebastian Tretola, and Denver Kirkland off the offensive line.
What I’m saying is…well…things aren’t looking so great for the Hogs right now. Arkansas has more depth now than they’ve had in 4 or 5 years, but it’s still incredibly hard to replace guys like that. Adding to the issued facing the Hogs is that their schedule this year is absolutely brutal. Let’s go through it week by week.
Sep 3rd: LA Tech in Fayetteville – Will be a much needed tune up game for the Hogs. LAT is a solid program with good players on their roster, and will give the Razorbacks a competitive game, at least early on. Hopefully, Arkansas can start to mesh on offense, keep the Bulldogs out of the endzone, and build some confidence for next week. 1-0.
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Sep. 10th: TCU in Fort Worth: They return a lot of players on defense, and add a potentially all conference QB to the mix. The Hogs didn’t have much success stopping Kenny Hill the first time around, and TCU’s defense is going to be salty. Hogs fall in Texas. 1-1.
Sep. 17th: Texas State in NWA: I mean…I’m going to pick the Hogs here. For obvious reasons. 2-1 now.
Sept. 24th: Texas A&M in Arlington: You know how LSU just can’t seem to beat Arkansas lately? That’s how the Hogs are against TAMU. Last year, Arkansas played their best football (up to that point) in an OT losing effort to A&M. They ran well and threw well, and still lost. I’m having a hard time picking Arkansas to win just based off of past years. Hogs fall to the Aggies again, 2-2.
Oct 1st: Alcorn State in Little Rock: Fans barely show up to their seats, and instead choose to drink the cheapest alcohol they can on the golf course. Not like this game should be close. The Razorbacks vomit Jim Beam and cola all over the Braves, and move to 3-2.
Oct 8th: Alabama Crimson Tide in Fayetteville: The Razorbacks haven’t beaten the Tide in 9 years, and I don’t see it happening this year either. Unless Arkansas’ offense surprises me this year and is far more explosive than I’m predicting, then the Hogs don’t have much of a chance. The Arkansas defense will probably have a good showing, but I just don’t see us scoring much. Arkansas falls to 3-3.
Oct 15th: Ole Miss in DWRRS: The Razorbacks have had Ole Miss’ number these past few years, and I think if I was going to pick an “upset” for this season, it would be Arkansas over the Rebel Black Bears again. If I’m going to be bold, now is the time! It’s August, after all. Hogs go back above .500 with a win and move to 4-3.
Oct 22nd: Auburn in Auburn: I’m not buying the War Tigers as being rebuilt, and I’m not buying them to be a contender in the SEC West. In fact, I AM buying the improved Arkansas defense as being able to stop the Teagles, and that the Auburn defense is still bad. Hogs win and move to 5-3.
Nov 5th: Florida Gators in Arkansas: The defending SEC east champs will be a tough game for the Hogs. Their defense is second to none in the SEC, and their offense will probably be improved from last year despite losing their QB. I can’t in good conscious pick the Hogs in this one. Gators win, and Arkansas falls to 5-4.
Nov 12th: LSU in Arkansas: If this game was in Louisiana, then I’d pick the Tigers. The Hogs, at this point in the season, are probably going to be playing their best offense. LSU just can’t seem to stop the Hogs, and Arkansas just knows how to take advantage of them. I’m buying a 3-peat for Bielema here. Hogs move to 6-4.
Nov 19th: Mississippi State in Mississippi: The Bulldogs lost Dak, and they’re going to have a hard time recovering from that. There’s just no way around it. The Bulldogs actually have a lot of talented players on their team, though, and will be a tough game for the Hogs. Since I’ve already picked an upset for Arkansas, I guess I should pick an upset that doesn’t go the Razorback’s way. Hogs fall on the road to MSU and drop to 6-5.
Nov 26th: Mizzou in Columbia: The Tigers are not going to be great at the football again this year. New coaches seldom do well in the SEC on their first year, especially after losing a big group of seniors like Mizzou did. They do return a lot of guys, but it won’t be enough. Arkansas wins, moved to 7-5.
Bowl Game: I’m going to predict Arkansas wins their bowl game so that we can go 8-5 just like last year. Because if the Hogs are able to repeat last year’s record, including a bowl win, after losing 5 offensive starters to the NFL, then there’s no reason that Arkansas shouldn’t be a dark horse contender for the SEC in 2017.
So there’s my July predictions. Let’s see how much they change between now and August.