Arkansas’ football fortunes for a decade have been a combination of bad decisions piled on top of incompetence mixed with a healthy dose of arrogance.
As a result, the Razorbacks have never won eight games in a season. That should be the minimum standard for the program, even in a down year.
They have gotten away with it because other people keep making excuses for failure and too much time talking about what “almost” happened. It’s hard to measure “almost” because “almost” doesn’t matter.
That’s why every year looking at the possible path to winning eight games is interesting. Granted it assumes a lot of things happening, but outlining that path does provide some perspective.
The Hogs have gotten so far behind everybody else in the SEC the primary goal is to simply catch the middle of the pack. Just getting better will never get them back where they used to be.
Getting eight wins would signal they are ready to at least get into some conversation about winning a title, which is what should be the goal.
The bar is higher and there’s that nagging little problem that every other team in the SEC (particularly the West) is getting better every year. Lane Kiffin will have Ole Miss better, Mike Leach will probably have a completely different team at Mississippi State after running off a slew of folks. Eli Drinkwitz will even have Missouri better.
Improvement at Arkansas has to be record-setting dramatic combined with some luck to reach an eight-win season.
Plus teams can go the other way.
And that’s the key to what many would consider a miracle of near-Biblical proportions.
The Hogs should win three of their non-conference games. If they don’t have a 20-point lead at halftime over Rice, Georgia Southern and UAPB there’s an issue.
Managing to overcome the M-schools and Texas A&M is the first key to winning eight games. They weren’t so far ahead of the Hogs’ program it’s impossible to catch.
Since SEC expansion in 2012, the Hogs are 6-25 against those four teams and four of the wins have been against Ole Miss. Against the other three teams, the Hogs are 4-21.
The record against all four of those teams has to improve. To get eight wins, Arkansas will have to win at least three. It’s easy to assume the Aggies will be the biggest obstacle, but those have been one-score games five of the last six years. For some reason it’s usually close.
Picking up six wins (three non-conference, three of the four league games) leaves the biggest question marks in the league with Auburn and LSU.
The Tigers are breaking in a new coach in Bryan Harsin, but Chad Morris is gone as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator so that usually results in the quarterback he left turning into the player of the year.
It could be a big year for Bo Nix.
The bottom line to that is nobody knows how to judge the Tigers for this year. Too many questions and very few answers right now.
In Baton Rouge, though, there are a whole host of problems. Be careful of teams in that position because it can go a couple of ways and one would spell disaster and LSU tends to implode when things aren’t rolling along smoothly.
There is a slight crack for eight wins this year.
But they’ll have to get five wins out of the group of Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri and pick off a couple of wins from the Aggies, Auburn or LSU.
Getting eight should be the minimum expectation … every year.
Just being competition should never be acceptable.