There’s no shortage of bulletin board material for the Razorbacks this season. Seemingly every last pundit has made note of the difficulty of winning with a first-year, first-time major college head football coach, and how that difficulty has been compounded by no spring football and a schedule that will probably go down about as smoothly as a ghost pepper smoothie.
Arkansas has lost 16 consecutive SEC games and is seven away from the divisional-era record, and a few major national outlets think this losing streak is bound to continue.
USA Today’s Paul Myerberg predicts Arkansas won’t win a game this year. In his SEC preview, Myerberg writes: “The Razorbacks’ last SEC win came against Ole Miss on Oct. 28, 2017.) The three best chances at ending this streak: at Mississippi State on Oct. 3, vs. Ole Miss on Oct. 17 and at Missouri on Nov. 28. A third winless SEC season in a row would leave Arkansas’ losing streak in third, behind Sewanee (37 in a row from 1933-40) and Vanderbilt (33 from 1976-81).”
USA Today and CBS Sports have teamed up to produce a ranking of the 76 teams remaining in college football after four FBS conferences and a few other schools (46 teams in total) either postponed football until the spring or canceled it entirely.
They slot Arkansas at No. 74, behind Tulsa and Vanderbilt:
According to CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, there are 74 bowl game spots for 76 teams. “Only Arkansas and East Carolina, each of whom I project to be winless, miss out. Two other teams I project to be winless are Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech, though they get spots due to the APR tiebreaker,” Palm wrote.
Despite Palm’s pessimism, the CBS Sports college football team actually does include Arkansas as part of the 2020 Frisco Bowl:
|Frisco Bowl||Dec. 20||Dallas, Tex.||Pool vs. Pool||Kansas+ vs. Arkansas+|
And, for what it’s worth, CBS has Arkansas State playing Miami:
|Holiday Bowl||Dec. 27||San Diego, Calif.||at-large vs. Pac-12||Miami (FL) vs. Arkansas St+|
On the other side of the spectrum, however, is the College Football News. Its writers believe Arkansas can win as many as four games, and they rank the Hogs at No. 41 — much higher than in any other national preseason poll. Sure, a lot of the reason is that its writers weigh heavily in favor of the SEC’s strength of schedule, but it’s still notable that CFN ranks the Hogs this highly after ranking them at No. 96 at the end of last year (and, yes, the Big 10 and Pac 12 canceling football did help here).
“No one will expect anything out of an Arkansas program that went 0-for-the-Chad-Morris-era against the SEC, and has just five wins over FBS programs over the last three years,” Pete Fiutek wrote in his season preview for CFN.
“But it’s a young team overall, Pittman nailed the coordinator hires with Kendal Briles for the offensive side and Barry Odom for the D, and for now, he’ll get the benefit of having no expectations whatsoever put on him.”
“However, in what’s going to be a weird year for everyone, this might just be the type of team that can come up with the right scheme and the right performance on the right day to royally screw up one of the big boys.”
That’s the kind of optimism that college football analyst RJ Young shares in his Arkansas season preview below. “You get Feleipe Franks running that veer and shoot with Kendal Briles, you understand what you have in the backfield. You understand what Trey Knox and Treylon Burks are going to do. Barry Odom’s new 425 with Levi Draper and Bumper Pool. My dude, Myles Slusher back there with Jaylen Catalon.”
“They could surprise some people. So let’s go with the teams from Arkansas as my sleeper picks — Arkansas State and the University of Arkansas.”
College Football News’ Top 5 Arkansas players on offense
No. 1 RB Rakeem Boyd, Sr.
“The 6-0, 215-pound former JUCO transfer has averaged over six yards per pop in his two seasons, can catch, and last year he ripped off 100 yards or more five times. Too often, the team got down so big early that it had to abandon the running game, but he’s effective whenever he gets his chances,” Fiutek wrote.
2. QB Feleipe Franks, Sr.
3. WR Mike Woods, Jr.
4. TE Hudson Henry, RFr.
5. QB KJ Jefferson, RFr.
College Football News’ Top 5 Arkansas players on defense
No. 1 LB Bumper Pool, Jr.
“Second on the team with 94 tackles with 6.5 tackles for loss and five broken up passes, he gets all over the field – he’s always around the ball. He should be an even bigger statistical superstar under new defensive coordinator Barry Odom.”
2. S Joe Foucha, Jr.
3. CB Montaric Brown, Jr.
4. LB Grant Morgan, Sr.
5. DE Xavier Kelly, Jr.
What about other outlets?
The Athletic is in the middle of the road, ranking Arkansas at No. 62.
Its three worst teams are Texas State (No. 74), UTSA (No. 75) and UTEP (No. 76).
Then there’s longtime SEC reporter Brandon Marcello and the incomparable Phil Steele, who has been doing season preview magazines back when Michael Jordan had hair.
Marcello, a former Arkansas sports reporter who recently moved back to northwest Arkansas, predicts the Hogs will win one game. “Pittman has a long rebuilding project ahead of him,” he wrote in his SEC preview for 247Sports.com. He has to balance the need for immediate help (junior college transfers) with building for the future (high school signees).”
“It’s a difficult ask for a first-time college head coach at an SEC program already facing the challenge of playing in the toughest division in college football. Just picking up one win in the SEC would be a good sign for the future.”
Steele, too, thinks Arkansas will win a single game.
Below, Phil Steele talks about Mississippi State as a potential win and why he thinks Arkansas is two to three years away from competing at a high level: