Arkansas football: Is it crazy to think Razorbacks might make a bowl with Nick Starkel?
Not much was expected this season. Very few were even optimistic enough to give the Hogs a fighting chance to qualify for a bowl game. Not even with perceived gunslinger quarterback Ben Hicks coming over from SMU to reunite with coach Chad Morris.
All that to say that most believed Arkansas would have a losing record in 2019.
But that was before Nick Starkel wrestled the QB reins from Hicks. And give credit to Morris for doing so early in the season rather than allowing his team to continue to flounder with the prospect of being hammered for a 3rd consecutive season in the SEC.
In 1 start, Starkel has lifted the spirits of a fan base and suddenly given hope that the team just might be able to add to its 1 conference victory since the 2016 season.
Granted, there are still some among us who haven’t climbed aboard the Starkel Bandwagon, but others are already drawing the comparisons to what Ryan Mallet accomplished.
Those were the days, weren’t they? Back-to-back double-digit win seasons (2010-11) punctuated by Sugar and Cotton Bowl berths. When Mallett set the standard for 300-yard passing games at 10.
Now we’re not going to get crazy here and blow air up your khakis, but last Saturday Starkel recorded his first 300-yard passing game as a Razorback and his 3 touchdown passes helped the Hogs improve to 2-1 for the season with a blowout 55-34 victory over Colorado State. It’s a start.
Remember, Starkel posted two 400-yard passing games in 2017 as a starter with Texas A&M and was 1 yard shy of 500 in one of those, a 55-52 loss to Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl.
So what can we expect, what can we hope for moving forward as we look down the schedule? No sense in lamenting the Ole Miss loss even though there is clear indication that the outcome could have been a lot different with Starkel at the helm. And that victory, had it been secured, would have made bowl aspirations a definite possibility.
Nonetheless, carrying on with Starkel cemented as the starting quarterback, we can look at the remaining opponents and see the postseason isn’t just a pipedream. A victory over San Jose State on Saturday is obviously crucial and that would give the Hogs their 3rd ‘W’ of the season.
Where would the other 3 victories come from that would make Arkansas bowl eligible? Well, winning the final nonconference game against Western Kentucky is a must. Starkel gives the Razorbacks a chance to win their Homecoming game with Mississippi State in early November.
It could quite possibly come down to the final game of the season. Arkansas might be holding 5 victories when it hosts Missouri in late November. Is the prospect of 2 conference victories out of the question?
Starkel gives the Razorbacks that hope, that optimism for a chance at a bowl game this season. His veteran leadership, strong arm, and knowledge of the game at this level is what gives Arkansas a legitimate shot at the postseason. It’s what we thought we might get from Hicks. But Starkel has proven to be a solid quarterback against SEC competition.
His performance last Saturday was only the beginning. It will be interesting to watch Starkel’s continued development with an emerging set of young receivers.