Arkansas Football: Game-by-game predictions for 2014
Will Auburn repeat as SEC champions? What team will emerge as a division darkhorse no one’s talking about? It’s time for Year 2 of our two-week, daily ‘Crystal Ball’ series on how each of the SEC’s 14 teams will finish this fall.
We hit a couple big-time upsets last fall including Tennessee’s win over South Carolina, but didn’t expect 12 wins out of Mizzou, a BCS title-game run from Auburn or Florida’s faceplant in Will Muschamp’s third season.
2014 CRYSTAL BALL SERIES
- MISSISSIPPI ST.
- TEXAS A&M
- OLE MISS
- SOUTH CAROLINA
THE 2014 BATTLEFIELD
Aug. 30 at Auburn (L): It may take 100-yard, multi-touchdown rushing efforts from both Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, but Arkansas has a chance to set the SEC on fire with an opening weekend victory over the heavily-favored Tigers. High-powered offenses often sputter their first time out if a rhythm’s not established early.
Sept. 6 vs. Nicholls State (W): The Colonels won just four games last fall, but several starters return including Tuskani Figaro at quarterback after rushing for a program record 1,103 yards as a true sophomore. Arkansas has one of the league’s most underrated defensive fronts and Nicholls State’s ability to attack the gaps will be tested.
Sept. 13 at Texas Tech (L): There’s a buzz out of Lubbock this season after the Red Raiders sold out season tickets for the first time in school history this summer thanks to Kliff Kingsbury, a rising star in the coaching ranks. Arguably the toughest road game for the Razorbacks after Auburn this season, keeping the opposition’s offense off the field will be paramount.
Sept. 20 vs. Northern Illinois (W): Arkansas opens a five-game home stand (including one neutral site tilt) approaching the meat of this year’s schedule against a Northern Illinois squad who has played in a bowl game six straight years. The Huskies ranked seventh nationally in rushing last season at just under 300 yards per game, so all-league candidates Darius Philon and Trey Flowers should have plenty of work in this one despite the exit of Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch.
Sept. 27 vs. Texas A&M (L): The first of several matchups with Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium over the new few years, this fierce rivalry moves to a neutral site location in what promises to be a shootout despite the two teams’ differing offensive philosophies. The Aggies have scored 103 total points against the Razorbacks over their last two meetings but that was with an offense driven by Johnny Manziel.
Oct. 11 vs. Alabama (L): The toughest game on this season’s schedule for the Razorbacks, Alabama should be in midseason form and likely unbeaten in the Top 5 by the time it travels to Reynolds Stadium. Arkansas hasn’t scored a point on the Crimson Tide defense in two years, so an early field goal might be a good start. Coming off a 13-day break between games, the Razorbacks’ first drive is essential.
Oct. 18 vs. Georgia (L): Intriguing due to the head-to-head battle of impressive backfields, not overall talent on both sides. The Bulldogs have an edge at most positions, but perhaps Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen can make a few plays against a depleted secondary to keep it interesting.
Oct. 25 vs. UAB (W): Coming off a 10-loss season, the Blazers simply don’t have the personnel to hang with a team from the SEC. If you play college fantasy football, this is one to keep an eye on when the Razorbacks are on offense.
Nov. 1 at Mississippi State (L): Dan Mullen stressed the importance of ‘winning the games we’re supposed to win’ at SEC Media Days in Hoover and if the Bulldogs are hoping to establish that mentality with lofty expectations this season, here’s one they can’t dismiss.
Nov. 15 vs. LSU (L): This rivalry’s always fun despite two programs on different slopes of success in recent years. The annual Thanksgiving Weekend affair has been moved up two weeks this fall and since the Tigers will still be in contention out West, LSU gets the edge.
Nov. 22 vs. Ole Miss (L): It’s time for the Razorbacks to play spoiler against a squad approaching the nine-win mark with senior quarterback Bo Wallace. The Rebels will be ranked in the Top 15 when they arrive in Fayetteville and could leave with shattered dreams if they aren’t careful.
Nov. 28 at Missouri (L): The Tigers replace South Carolina as the Razorbacks’ permanent rival from the East and as long as the SEC keeps its eight-game league schedule in effect, these two will meet annually as new cross-division foes.
2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 3-9, 0-8
THE LOWDOWN: Arkansas will be more competitive in Bret Bielema’s second season with several losses late coming in the fourth quarter, but 3-9’s still 3-9. It’s difficult to establish any tremor of momentum in the SEC West at a struggling program, but Bielema needs to provide the fanbase with some hope for the future. An upset win — or two — would help.