Alabama football will face the Arkansas Razorbacks in week nine. The Hogs will almost automatically be improved in ’19 after winning just two games in 2018.
Alabama football fans are not much concerned about how much better Arkansas will be in 2019. Last season’s 2-10 team could be decidedly better and still not be very good.
The Hogs will almost assuredly win more than twice as many games in 2019. The OOC schedule is a breeze with FCS Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State and Western Kentucky. The Razorbacks could surpass last season’s win total by the third of September this season. They might even win a conference game or two.
That Arkansas has virtually no chance against the Alabama Crimson Tide is not worthy of debate. Alabama football fans remember last season’s game with less fondness than a typical 65-31 victory. Though the outcome of the game was never in doubt, the Crimson Tide defense surrendered over 400 yards and 22 first downs.
Arkansas rushed for a 5.5 yards-per-carry average against the Crimson Tide defense. The Razorbacks also scored on five of six trips to the red zone. Given Arkansas head coach, Chad Morris only had a below-average quarterback, the Tide’s defensive performance was perhaps a harbinger of what was to follow in the last three games of the season.
In Fayetteville, Arkansas fans are reassuring themselves Chad Morris can flip the dismal Razorback fortunes. Morris was 14-23 as the SMU head coach but Arkansas viewed him as its savior. Improving on a seven-season Arkansas record of only 35 wins seemed easily achievable for Morris.
Last season’s 2-10 record has fed some doubt. Not only did the Hogs lose 10 games for the first time in their history, but the Hogs were also 0-8 in the SEC. And they did show much improvement throughout the season. In the ninth game, Vanderbilt visited Arkansas and delivered a two-touchdown road win. In game 12, the Hogs were dominated 38-0 by Missouri.
The Razorbacks’ talent level dissipated under Bret Bielema, who was determined to play Wisconsin style power football. Last season’s Hogs’ roster was ill-suited to a Chad Morris offense. The talent will be better in 2019 but most of that talent will be young. Several freshmen must produce for the Hogs to improve.
The best offensive players should be a pair of running backs, Devwah Whaley and Rakeem Boyd. Boyd rushed for 6.8 yards-per-carry average against Alabama football last year. The best defensive player is almost certain to be linebacker, De’Jon Harris, who was the third-leading tackler in the SEC last season. Razorback fans (and Chad Morris) are hoping SMU transfer quarterback, Ben Hicks can trigger a Morris-style, fast-paced offense. Hicks passed for over 9,000 yards and 71 touchdowns in three SMU seasons.
Arkansas has a decent chance to win six games. The Hogs could go to Oxford and shock Ole Miss in week two. For those of us outside of northern Mississippi, an Arkansas upset would be a surprise bit no shock.