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Are the Arkansas Razorbacks the most underrated team in the SEC?

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

A GAME-BY-GAME ANAYLSIS OF ARKANSAS 2023 SEASON

Arkansas Razorback Cheerleaders and fans
Photo Credit - Texas Tongs via Flickr

FAYETTEVILLE Ar. - The Arkansas Razorbacks did not have the season they were anticipating to have last year. Injuries had a lot to do with that, as starting quarterback KJ Jefferson was plagued most of the year with an injury he just couldn't seem to shake. Sprinkle in some flu to the entire offensive line and you have a disaster on your hands. The Hogs did finish last year 7-6 with a bowl game victory over Kansas, but Razorback fans were left saying "What if?" What if KJ was completely healthy? What if the secondary didn't lose 13 starters to injuries and the transfer portal? What if the Hogs ran a 4 man front instead of a drop 8? So many questions remained with so few answers. Will this season be any different? I think it will.


Last season, the Hogs were incredibly unlucky. Plagued with injuries to key positions, the Hogs found themselves almost dead last in the country in total defense (124 of 131). No surprise there as at one point wide receivers were having to switch roles to fill holes in the secondary. Never a good sign. Will the Hogs be that unlucky this year? Highly unlikely.


Arkansas' offense last year was very explosive at times. KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders are poised to have the year of all years as the best quarterback/running back duo in all of college football. KJ will have to have a monster year to be considered a lock in the draft, and he knows it. If Anthony Richardson can be a first-rounder, KJ certainly should be (sorry Florida). Arkansas also returns one of the best running backs in the league in Rocket Sanders. Last year he was runner-up by just a few yards to SEC rushing leader Quinshon Judkins. There won't be any lack in production as I believe Rocket will have another incredible 1000-1500 yard season.

Arkansas also has a different offensive coordinator in Dan Enos this year, which in my opinion, is a step up from Kendal Briles. No more falling back on trick plays that don't work. Dan Enos spent 3 years as the offensive coordinator for Arkansas, under Brett Bielema so he knows Pittman very well. I look for Arkansas to have one of the best offenses in the SEC this season. The wide receiver room took a massive hit as star receiver Treylon Burks was taken in the first round of the NFL draft. The portal brought in a few proven weapons for KJ to sling the ball to on top of the recruits already in place. He has been working one on one with these receivers since they stepped foot on campus. We will see how that plays out.


The Defense lost a lot of talent in Drew Sanders and Bumper Pool. Injury-plagued Jalen Catalon didn't have the seasons he was hoping for at Arkansas and entered the transfer portal at the end of last year. He will be missed, and I hope he can stay healthy to continue his football career. The portal didn't just take away, but it brought in some top-tier talent as well. Jahiem Singletary a four-star CB recruit out of Georgia may fill Catalon's absence. Edge-Rusher John Morgan from Pitt and LB Antonio Grier join the party as well. All in all, Arkansas came away seventh in the portal with a majority of gets to bolster the defense. Landon Jackson will be a player to watch also, as reports said that he had one stellar off-season. I can see Arkansas getting back to that physicality that blew everyone away in 2021.





That being said, let's jump into Michael J Fox's DeLorean and have a peek at the upcoming season.


GAME 1: WESTERN CAROLINA AT ARKANAS (Little Rock)

The Hogs start right out of the gate with a team that finished 6-5 (4-4) in the Southern Conference. The cobwebs have to be shaken out on the first couple of drives, but Arkansas will settle comfortably in the driver's seat. With a defense that was ranked 71st in FCS, I think this one is a blowout. War Memorial will be sold out and rocking.


Prediction: Arkansas 38-7 (1-0)

GAME 2: KENT STATE AT ARKANSAS

The Kent State Flashes come in ranked as one of the worst teams in the FBS. The Flash's offense had just a little over 20 points per game while their defense gave up over 30 points per game. While on paper Kent State may seem like a tougher test, look for this one to be over in the first half.


Prediction: Arkansas 44-20 (2-0)

GAME 3: BYU AT ARKANSAS

BYU and Arkansas met in Provo last year in a thriller with Arkansas finally exerting their will and defeating BYU 52-35. BYU finished 8-5 with a four-game winning streak last season. Coming to Fayetteville will be a very tough task for the Cougars and they will fall in this one.


Prediction: Arkansas 33-14 (3-0)

GAME 4: ARKANSAS AT LSU

Now things get really tough. Arkansas starts the first of a four-game stretch that many are calling "the toughest in the country" by meeting defending SEC West Champion LSU in Death Valley. Since joining the SEC in 1992, Arkansas has never met LSU so early in the season let alone as the SEC opener. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is predicted to have an special season with LSU. The Tigers also bolster a stout defense as well with returning star linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. Hog fans remember him well as he single-handedly secured a victory for the Tigers in Fayetteville last season. The Hogs will rise to the level of competition and keep it close but will ultimately fall.


Prediction: LSU 31-28 (3-1)

GAME 5: TEXAS A&M vs ARKANSAS (NEUTRAL SITE)

Arkansas will try and bounce back, meeting Texas A&M at "Jerry World" in Arlington Texas. Texas A&M started the year with the number one recruiting class for 2022 but only finished 5-7. The offense will be improved with Bobby Petrino as offensive coordinator. The defense will be tough, and I expect the Arkansas offense to be tested early. At the end of last season, there was a mass exodus in talent, including a slew of four stars, and a couple of five-star commits. The media has predicted Jimbo Fisher and A&M to finish 5-3 in the SEC which would result in a much better season, but I'm not convinced. Last year, the Aggies were able to capitalize on a fumble by the Arkansas QB to win 23-21. Despite all that, Arkansas had a chance to win, but a last-minute missed FG would seal their fate. "Thing I remember is the play that I had that still sticks with me to this day that I had down in the red zone," Jefferson said. Coach Pittman had his comments as well. "We had the game," Pittman said. "We were in control of the game. That hits us in the face. We go into halftime and we're still ahead. It felt like we feel like we're 50 down."

KJ Jefferson will be plotting revenge as I look for him to take out his frustration on the Aggies. As much as I would love to say the Hogs will win this one easily, I do not seriously believe that. Still, I think the Hogs get their revenge and knock off the Aggies.


Prediction: Arkansas 20-13 (4-1)

GAME 5: ARKANSAS AT OLE MISS

When the 2023 schedule came out, I circled this game. Last season the Hogs were victorious in Fayetteville 42-27, but this time the game is in Oxford. No one on this Arkansas squad wants to win this one as much as KJ Jefferson. Growing up just thirty minutes away in Sardis Mississippi, KJ Jefferson visited Oxford many times. KJ's first game in Oxford was a thriller. Arkansas fell to Ole Miss 52-51 after a failed 2-point conversion. KJ had one of his best games in front of a home crowd. This time will be no different. Ole Miss has a load of talent in returning QB/RB duo Jackson Dart and Quinshon Judkins. Lane Kiffin will once again bring an explosive offense and have the Rebels competitive no matter who they play. However, I have questions on the defensive side of the ball. While they were ranked better than the Hogs for total defense, they still gave up almost 400 yards per game. They will need to be much more improved in that area to make a run this season. This will be KJ's second time playing at The Grove. Being from Mississippi, he has shown out in front of his home state crowd, but he just was not able to get a win. That changes this year as the Hogs go into Oxford and get a close victory with the help from KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders.


Prediction: Arkansas 34-31 (5-1)

GAME 6: ARKANSAS AT ALABAMA

Arkansas is 5-1 on the season and is feeling good heading into Tuscaloosa. The atmosphere is electric in a sold-out Bryant Denny stadium. The last time these two programs met, Alabama kept their dominance alive over Arkansas with a 49-26 thrilling victory where the score didn't tell the story. Arkansas was within 5 midway through the game and even had a successful onside kick but Jalen Milroe behind blockers took the Hog defense to the woodshed the rest of the game. This year's matchup will be just as electric as all the others. There is controversy in Tuscaloosa as Nick Saban still has not named a starting quarterback quoting "We will tell you". I see that as smoke and mirrors myself. I can't see Saban failing to get the Alabama offense to click on all cylinders this season. Alabama's defense lost Will Anderson to the draft and while it would be nearly impossible to replace him, it's next five-star up in Alabama. I look for Arkansas to make enough plays to hang with the Tide well into the 3rd quarter, but ultimately, they will fall late in this one.


Prediction: Alabama 45-30 (5-2)

GAME 7: MISSISSIPPI STATE AT ARKANSAS

Will Rogers and company come into Fayetteville to try and capitalize on the Hogs disappointing loss to Alabama. At this point in the season, both Will Rogers and KJ Jefferson will have unbelievable stats and will be compared to each other all game. Mississippi State would be coming off a very easy victory in Starkville over Western Michigan two weeks prior and the bye week the week before this game. Looking to build on that momentum. Arkansas will have none of it. While I do believe this one will be back and forth, Arkansas will bounce back and silence the cowbells.


Prediction: Arkansas 37-30 (6-2)

GAME 8: ARKANSAS AT FLORIDA

Coming off a bye week, Arkansas will be refreshed and ready to head to the swamp. Historically the Hogs have played very poorly here but sitting at 6-2 at this point in the season, morale is high. Florida will be coming off of a very physical and intense match-up with Georgia in Jacksonville the week prior. The sense of urgency will begin to creep into Gator fans. Florida will have had a very rough season up to this point and coach Billy Napier will be on the hotseat. Tempers flare and both programs have moments, but a very healthy Hog team will march into the swamp and get a very rare victory.


Prediction: Arkansas 27-20 (7-2)

GAME 9: AUBURN AT ARKANSAS

This one is tough. I have a feeling Hugh Freeze and the Tigers will be a threat. Will it be enough to stifle a red-hot Arkansas team at home? Expect Razorback Stadium to be LOUD. This will be a tough back-and-forth battle, but ultimately the Hogs will come out victorious. Rocket Sanders will explode and have a monster day on the ground.


Prediction: Arkansas 35-28 (8-2)

GAME 10: FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL AT ARKANSAS

No controversy here. The Hogs should run all over FIU barring injury. FIU isn't very good and it will show in this one. FIU last year gave up over 450 yards per game and I expect this one to be no different.


Prediction: Arkansas 52-13 (9-2)

GAME 11: MISSOURI AT ARKANSAS

Missouri has had Arkansas numbers over the years, most recently last year. The Battle Line rivalry lives on this time in Fayetteville. Arkansas will be flying high while Mizzou will be hoping to end the season on a good note. This will be another game that the Arkansas staff will circle and I believe Arkansas will be explosive right out of the gate. The Tigers will have some moments and keep it close but Arkansas gets the victory.


Prediction: Arkansas 31-24 (10-2)

FINAL RECORD 10-2 (6-2)

Before you say anything, yes this is a very bold prediction. Could Arkansas lose some games it shouldn't? Yes. Could the injury bug bite them again? Lord, I hope not. Could Missouri be the team to beat in the SEC? Absolutely not. Finishing the season 10-2 would be a joyous occasion heading into a division-less SEC schedule in 2024. If Arkansas can stay healthy on both sides of the ball, go 2-2 in the daunting four-game stretch, and win their non-conference games, what a season it will be. Football is almost here, and I can't wait.


2 comments

2 comentários


Going 10-2 is a bold preduction. I don't see you beating Ole Miss. To much for you down the street. Dart will carry that game.


Please beat Auburn. I see you at 6-4 @best


Go Kentucky

Curtir
George Hancock
George Hancock
09 de ago. de 2023
Respondendo a

Appreciate ya. I said best case scenario and I meant it.

Curtir
Michigan Football
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