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As with most college football teams, there are positives and negatives heading into the 2014 season for the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs come into 2014 off a dismal 3-9 season in which they lost their final 9 games after opening up 3-0. Their 3-0 start is somewhat misleading as those wins came against La-Lafayette, Samford and Southern Miss. Those three wins are one less than 2012, so a step back in the win column last year and losing 9 in a row are obviously the negatives.
So what's the upside? Well, there appears to be many positives going forward for Arkansas, starting with their head coach Bret Bielema. Bielema's worst season at Wisconsin was a 7 win season in 2007. His overall record was 68-24 with a 12 win season in 2006 and some 10 and 11 win seasons as well. He never had a losing season while with the Badgers. Arkansas fans need to be patient and allow Bielema to put his stamp on this team, which will gradually happen over the next 3 years.
Of course Bielema's success came in the Big 10. This is the SEC and if the SEC continues to be the top conference in college football, he'll certainly have his work cut out for him. Six of their opponents were ranked #18 or higher, including Alabama, who was #1 when they met and Auburn who went on to play for the National Championship. If we're going to take away a positive in those 9 straight losses it would have to be their final two games as they lost in OT to Miss State and lost by just 4 at #17 LSU in a game they led 27-21 after 3 quarters. Bottom line here is that their final two games were a big improvement from the middle of the season when they were getting blown out by Florida, South Carolina and Alabama.
Another area of encouragement would have to be their returning starters. They return 15, 7 on the offense and 8 on the defense which places them right up there with the other top SEC teams in that category. Those players have a year under their belts with Bielema and his schemes which can only be a positive heading into this year.
The key word for the Razorback fan is patience. Bret Bielema is attempting to pull off quite a drastic change in Arkansas. Taking a team built by Bobby Petrino to air it out and turning them into a Wisconsin like, pound the ball offense. We think he'll get it done, but only if he's given the proper amount of time to do so. These days, in College football, programs tend to want instant results and can overreact to a couple of down years. This project will take some time.
As for 2014, Arkansas has a good chance to at least improve on their win total from a year ago. There's a couple of cupcakes on the schedule which should give them an automatic two wins. If they can convert a couple of their closer games from a year ago into wins, that would bring their win total to 4. But in order to do any better than that, they'll have to beat some good teams. Their schedule isn't as tough as it was a year ago, but it's no walk in the park either. We'll predict 5 or 6 wins for the Hogs in 2014 as they take another step in the right direction.
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