Three Elements Would Make 2024 a Successful Season for the Arkansas Razorbacks Football Team Head Coach lament

The Arkansas Razorbacks are hoping to have a better season than last year. Arkansas Football has, quite frankly, only been half a step above Vanderbilt for over a decade. The Razorbacks have gone a combined 60-87 since 2012, including a 24-74 record in the SEC, with only one season (2015) where the Hogs had an SEC record above .500. For context, Vanderbilt has gone 54-91 in that same span and also has one season with an SEC winning record (2012).

Again, the Hogs are only a small step above the Commodores.

Of course, Arkansas fans don’t like to hear this since, unlike Vanderbilt, they are passionate about football. Many still live in the Darren McFadden era when the Razorbacks were on the cusp of playing for a National Championship.

What Can Arkansas Do to Have a Successful Season?

For Arkansas and the fans to have a ‘successful season,’ the Hogs and their fanbase must do three things.

  1. Admit that they aren’t Alabama or Georgia. This may seem obvious, but SEC fans (outside of Vanderbilt and maybe South Carolina) all think they should and need to be the best team in the conference. But again, Razorbacks need to realize they have been closer to Vanderbilt the last 12 years than they have been to Mississippi State, the third worst team in the conference (88-64). When they realize that, a 6-6 season is a success. This may be the toughest one for fans to grasp.
  2. Take care of the non-conference schedule. If the Razorbacks hope to get back to a bowl game, they need to go 4-0 in the non-conference or 3-1 at the absolute worst. This is a super easy ask for most SEC schools, but there are no guarantees for the Razorbacks, who have lost to San Jose State, Colorado State, North Texas, and Toledo in recent years.  UAPB will  be a win, but Oklahoma State, UAB, and Louisiana Tech could be challenging. If Arkansas goes 1-2 in those games, the Hogs can just fire Pittman immediately.
  3. Figure out one-score games: Last year, the Razorbacks were perhaps the nation’s best 4-8 team. They were right in the game with Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss, who all finished high in the final rankings. However, the Hogs went 1-5 in one score games. If the Razorbacks can improve on this to get to .500 in one-score games, there is a good chance that the Hogs will be in another bowl game.

Arkansas’ pathway to a bowl game is an uphill battle that will require them to exceed expectations and play at a higher level than they have for the better part of 12 years. There are different groups of games that Hogs will play and they will have to find some combination to get to a sixth win. Some of these will cross over into multiple categories.

Absolute Need to Win – These games are the ones that Arkansas absolutely must win to have any time to make a bowl game realistically:

  • UAPB
  • UAB
  • Lousiana Tech
  • Mississippi State

Slight UnderdogThe Hogs likely won’t be favored in any of these games, but they will likely be games where they will be the underdogs by less than a touchdown. A win here will go a long way toward getting to a bowl.

  • Auburn
  • Oklahoma State
  • Texas A&M

Get a Rivalry Win – Arkansas certainly will not be favored in any “rivalry” game, but rivalry games can get weird, and even one win would greatly improve Arkansas’ chances.

  • LSU
  • Missouri
  • Texas
  • Texas A&M

Long Shot, But Show Up – These games are games that the Hogs will likely be double-digit underdogs and unlikely to win, but maybe the opponent will overlook the Hogs.

  • Ole Miss
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Missouri

Home Game Magic- Arkansas hasn’t done anything magical at home lately, but with a stadium that holds over 80,000, maybe things will finally change.

  • Texas
  • Ole Miss
  • LSU
  • Tennessee

In other words, there are many different paths to get to a bowl game, but most start and end with winning the four games on the ‘absolutely need to win’ list. From there, win a “rivalry game + home game magic” or a “home game magic + slight underdog,” and Arkansas will be in the postseason.

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