Don’t be surprised if the Arkansas Razorbacks win the SEC Championship in 2015. As Bret Bielema enters his third season as the Head Hog, he has restored toughness, discipline and power to the team. We had an opportunity to witness the type of team to expect this season in the final four games of last season and against Alabama. The Hogs won three of their last four games last season, including back-to-back shutouts of ranked SEC opponents LSU and Ole Miss, and the team concluded the season by crushing Texas in the Texas Bowl—not allowing the Longhorns to earn even 60 total yards. Let’s not forget Arkansas nearly defeated mighty Alabama, losing by only one point. In every loss last season, the Razorbacks were close to winning and probably should have won each one of those close games. In the Auburn game, the Hogs were tied with the Tigers at halftime. However, former Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney abandoned the running game—the strength of the Arkansas offense—and the Tigers were able to capitalize on his misguided offensive strategy (or lack thereof).
The Year of the Hogs?
The Hogs are ready to win the SEC Championship this year. Although the Hogs surrendered a few valuable defensive players to the NFL, the team returns the core of its offense, defense and special teams. Last season, Arkansas had one of the best defenses and offenses in the nation. Based on Arkansas having fundamentally the same squad it had last year, including some talented new players, we can expect the team to continue to improve and surprise many teams in the SEC and stun many college football fans across the nation. The recently released pre-season coaches’ poll has Arkansas ranked as the #20 team in the nation. However, Las Vegas gamblers—people willing to put their money where their mouths are—have Arkansas ranked as the #6 team in the nation.
When Arkansas Goes on Offense
Again, Arkansas has the largest offensive line in football: both college and NFL. The offensive line is not only massive but also highly talented and athletic. Arkansas has two of the best running backs, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, in the nation—arguably the best running back duo in the country. This season the Hogs will feature a third solid running back, Kody Walker, giving the Razorbacks a three-headed monster rushing attack. Bielema is committed to a power running game—just as he was at Wisconsin—and it’s paying tremendous dividends for him at Arkansas and will continue to pay even greater dividends for him this season and beyond. With new offensive coordinator Dan Enos at the helm, Brandon Allen, Arkansas’ senior quarterback, seems to have made significant improvements during the off-season, and Enos has been a proven-leader in ameliorating passing games and producing quality passing games. The success the Hogs will have on offensive will aid them immensely on defense as they’re bound to dominate the time of possession in most games this season.
A Tough but Doable Schedule
Again, the Razorbacks will have one of the toughest schedules to combat, but a few huge wins can propel them to the SEC Championship game and give them a chance to play in this season’s National Championship. It will be difficult to defeat Alabama on the road, but remember the Hogs only loss by one point to the Crimson Tide last year. Also, it will be difficult to go on the road and defeat Ole Miss and LSU, but remember the Hogs shutout both teams in back-to-back weeks last season.
Teams situated in the SEC West have to win big games almost every week and Arkansas understands this by now.
Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Arkansas