Expectations for Bret Bielema are the highest they’ve been in his time at Arkansas. Now entering year four of his tenure, there is a feeling among the Razorbacks’ fans that it’s time to start contending for an SEC Championship. Bielema has ruffled feathers and has always been good for a sound byte, but now it’s time to start winning football games. His record at Arkansas is 18-20, but the Hogs have gone to and won back to back bowl games (against Texas in the Texas Bowl and Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl). The SEC West is an unforgiving place, however, and another seven or eight win season is well within the realm of possibility.
As many of the teams around college football are having to do, Arkansas has to replace the bulk of their offensive production. Brandon Allen and Alex Collins both graduated and leave some pretty big shoes to fill. Allen passed for 3,440 yards and 30 TD’s while Collins rushed for over 1,500 yards and 20 TD’s. The QB situation looks set to stay with the Allen family as Brandon’s younger brother Austin is the frontrunner to be the Hogs starting QB. In extremely limited playing time last season he attempted a total of three passes, of which he completed one for 35 yards and a TD. Kody Walker is the leading returning rusher, having carried the ball 90 times for 394 yards and 6 TD’s. The strength of the Arkansas offense however, is their much ballyhooed offensive line. Last year the O-line averaged 328 pounds, more than any line in the conference and even bigger than the O-line of the San Diego Chargers (326 pounds).
Defensively, Arkansas ran hot and cold last season. There were games last year where nobody could score or move the ball against them and then there were games where they could not get off the field or get stops with any consistency. On the season they gave up an average of 28 points per game, but gave up 35 or more four times. They also bizarrely gave up 28 points to UT-Martin. But there were five games where they gave up 20 or fewer. For Arkansas to take the next step and contend for an SEC Championship the defense has to play at a higher level on a more consistent basis.
One of the biggest things Arkansas has going for it this year is that the games against the toughest teams are all at home. They only have four true road games in addition to two neutral site games (though games in Little Rock are technically home games). When Bielema took over, Arkansas was a program in disarray. After three seasons under his watch, the Razorbacks have improved. Now it’s time for Bielema and Arkansas to take the next step and contend for something more than middle tier bowl games.
2016 Arkansas Razorbacks Schedule
9/3 – Arkansas vs. Louisiana Tech – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
9/10 – Arkansas @ TCU – Amon G Carter Stadium
9/17 – Arkansas vs. Texas State – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
9/24 – Arkansas vs. Texas A&M – AT&T Stadium*
10/1 – Arkansas vs. Alcorn State – War Memorial Stadium*
10/8 – Arkansas vs. Alabama – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
10/15 – Arkansas vs. Ole Miss – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
10/22 – Arkansas @ Auburn – Jordan-Hare Stadium
11/5 – Arkansas vs. Florida – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
11/12 – Arkansas vs. LSU – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
11/19 – Arkansas @ Mississippi State – Davis Wade Stadium
11/25 – Arkansas @ Missouri – Faurot Field
*denotes game being played at neutral site