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Arkansas Razorbacks

College Football

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Nothing has been truly easy for Arkansas under Bret Bielema, always showing its strength in huge wins, but falling off with questionable losses. It was more of the same in 2016 as the Razorbacks took down teams like TCU, Ole Miss and Florida, but had lapses of poor play from the Auburn and LSU blowouts to the regular-season finale loss to Missouri. This team remains all over the map and that will probably be the case this season.

At the least, the Hogs will return their starting quarterback in Austin Allen (61.1% completion, 25 TDs, 15 INTs) and studs at running back in Rawleigh Williams III (1,360 yards, 12 TDs) and Devwah Whaley (602 yards, 3 TDs). Williams picked up an injury in the spring, but nothing pointed to it being too serious. The question will be who catches passes from Allen and if the offensive line can be a strong suit. Outside of Jared Cornelius (515 yards, 4 TDs) it’s a toss-up as to who will step up in the receiving game with a couple JUCO players competing for time, as well. Expected improvement along the line will be big after giving up 34 sacks a year ago as it returns four starters. If not, this offense will remain its inconsistent self from scoring three points against Auburn to dropping 31 on Florida.

The defense has similar issues as the line got crushed a year ago. To mix things up, new coordinator Paul Rhoads (former DB coach and Iowa State HC) is switching to a 3-4 scheme. This group gave up more than 200 rushing yards per game in 2016 to go with 30.8 points allowed per game. While they lost a decent amount of players, a lot of the returning starters have moved positions in the spring, so it’s hard to project this group going forward. The secondary improved a bunch last season and should continue that trend with Kevin Richardson and Santos Ramirez back there. Jamario Bell was moved from offense to outside linebacker and was a talking point in the spring.

To surpass last season’s seven wins and 3-5 SEC record, Arkansas needs to make some kind of leap defensively. The offense will get its points with the help of Allen, but it’s not a dominant unit that can win games by itself against elite SEC teams. It’ll be important for the Hogs to get a good start and win their first four home games with TCU and Texas A&M standing out. If not, things could get rough once again in the conference season with road games at Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU. A trip to South Carolina isn’t easy either with Auburn being their most difficult home game.

The Razorbacks had +5000 spring odds to win the conference (at 5Dimes Sportsbook), but with the road games at ‘Bama and LSU, there’s close to no chance for that. They’re projected to finish fifth in the West division again along with Mississippi State. Due to a friendly close to the season, eight wins are possible, but anything more would take some big upsets.

2017 Arkansas Razorbacks Football Schedule

Aug. 31 vs. Florida A&M
Sept. 9 vs. TCU
Sept. 23 vs. Texas A&M
Sept. 30 vs. New Mexico State

Oct. 7 at South Carolina
Oct. 14 at Alabama
Oct. 21 vs. Auburn
Oct. 28 at Ole Miss
Nov. 4 vs. Coastal Carolina
Nov. 11 at LSU
Nov. 18 vs. Mississippi State
Nov. 25 vs. Missouri

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