Today is as a good a day as any to stir the pot a little with some predictions concerning the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Like most predictions, they should be taken with a grain or even a bucket of salt. Some might hit close to target. Others are probably too outlandish to ever come to fruition. I’ll let you decide which ones are which. Hopefully they will at least be entertaining.
Let’s start with a bang.
No. 1 – Sometime within the next decade, the Arkansas Razorbacks will begin to play the Arkansas State Red Wolves in football. It just seems to be in the tea leaves.
Mind you, I’m not for it, but after the passing of Frank Broyles last year, it seems like something that will be pushed for and made to happen in the near future.
As a Razorback fan, the idea of watching the Hogs play Arkansas State is no more exciting to me than watching them play Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, The Pacific, New Mexico State, or Florida A&M. Of course, my tune would change if they played, and the Red Wolves won, but right now it’s not a game that lights my fire.
The Razorbacks wouldn’t gain anything from it, and the series would only force those who support both programs to pick sides.
While those who have proposed the pairing in the past have always seen it as a game to be played in War Memorial Stadium with a 50/50 split in tickets, to me it should be treated as any other buy-in game on the Hogs’ schedule.
Arkansas would pay the Red Wolves a half million dollars or maybe a bit more to come to Fayetteville and absorb a whipping. Such a setup would save the Razorbacks money from having to overpay a directional school, and it would give the Red Wolves fans what they have dreamed of forever — the chance to beat the Razorbacks.
Then again with such a game meaning that much to Red Wolves fans, maybe Arkansas State should pony up a quarter of a million for the right to play the Razorbacks?
That would probably pay for turning the lights on at Razorback Stadium.
No. 2 – Dave Van Horn’s Arkansas Razorback baseball team will secure a National Seed in the NCAA Baseball Tournament and host for the first and second rounds.
This is not an outlandish prediction at all. Going into tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game with the Missouri State Bears (22-10, 5-1) at Baum Stadium, the Razorbacks are ranked as high as No. 2 in the national polls and are 27-10 overall and 10-5 in the SEC. The Razorbacks lead the SEC West by a game over LSU (24-13, 9-6), but trail No. 1 Florida (32-6, 12-3) by a couple of games half way through the SEC regular season.
As predicted by all, the Razorbacks are a very good baseball team. They have been all year, but what should be exciting for Hog fans is that they are also improving.
Arkansas had been spotty at times early in the season on defense, but the Razorbacks have played great defense the last two weeks.
On top of that, the Hogs’ already very good pitching also is getting better and better. Blaine Knight (6-0, 1.95 ERA) and Kacey Murphy (5-2, 2.00 ERA) have pitched great all season, but Isaiah Campbell (3-3, 3.44) may have looked as good as he has all year last week in a 2-1 victor over South Carolina. Matt Cronin (2-0, 2.05 ERA) is a save machine with nine already on the season. As the weather warms, the Hogs should only get better in this category.
As good as the Razorbacks are, it’s not going to be easy for them to stay in contention for a National Seed. Their remaining five series are against Mississippi State (19-18, 5-10) at Starkville this weekend, Alabama (21-16, 5-10) at Baum Stadium on April 27-29, at No. 18 LSU (24-13, 9-6) on May 4-6, No. 22 Texas A&M (27-9, 8-7) at Baum on May 11-13, and at No. 24 Georgia (25-11, 9-6) on May 17-19.
The Razorbacks also have an exciting two-game home series with No. 5 Texas Tech (29-8, 8-4 Big 12) on April 24 and 25 that should be exciting for Hog fans and telling in Arkansas’ quest for a National Seed.
Based on the grit, toughness, and talent of this team, I think the Razorbacks will earn a National Seed, and it will be a launching pad for another trip to the College World Series appearance.
No. 3 – Arkansas will continue the tradition of playing football games at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock for the foreseeable future.
I predict that with confidence because the political and financial power brokers in the state’s Capital are going to make it happen if at all possible.
There is a $17-27 million barrier for improvements to the venerable stadium that has to be cleared, and that is a sizable chunk of cash no matter the circumstances or who is involved. But it will get done, and Arkansas’ program will be better off for it.
As happy and proud as I am to live in northwest Arkansas, playing games in Little Rock is a part of the DNA of the Razorback program. Without the support generated by playing games in the centrally located Capital, Arkansas’ program would not have the prominence it has today.
Some might ask what prominence?
It’s true that the football program’s glory days were prior to it joining the Southeastern Conference in 1991, but without those hallowed glory days of the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s when Arkansas regularly finished in the Top 10 and 20, the Hogs would never have been seen as an asset to the SEC and earned an invitation to join the league. Those glory days were built on playing four games in Little Rock a season. Everything that Broyles and other coaches, administrators, and players built at Arkansas flowed from those revenue-producing games and just as importantly fan-galvanizing games.
There are scores of athletic programs that would love to trade places with the Razorbacks because of the lucrative nature of being a member of the SEC, and the ability it give the program to be self-supporting.
Yes, Arkansas is an outlier or even an oddball in the ranks of college football today by playing home games away from campus, but that doesn’t mean doing so is a bad idea.
The fact of the matter is that some traditions are inconvenient and even expensive, but traditions are also what bind cultures, families, and, yes, even football programs together.
No. 4 – Call me a homer, or a Kool-Aid drinker, or even a sorry rascal, but I’m picking the Razorbacks to make a bowl game this season.
It might be the Birmingham, Texas, or Liberty Bowl, but I’m guessing Chad Morris is going to make it happen by the hair on the Hogs’ chinny chin chin.
Yes, the popular thoughts are to give Morris time to get his own players in place, don’t expect too much too soon, don’t lay on the pressure too early, and most of all to have patience.
It’s also true that the transition the Razorbacks are making on offense is huge, and at the moment, it seems uncertain if Arkansas has a quarterback that can be successful in Morris’ spread offense. We’ve seen programs like Auburn, which runs a similar offense to Morris’, struggle without great quarterback play.
Again I may be swimming in an ocean of Kool-Aid, but I think Arkansas’ defense under John Chavis’ direction is going to be good enough early to support the offense and allow the Razorbacks to get off to a 3-0 start against Eastern Illinois, Colorado State, and North Texas.
Yes, winning at Colorado State is an iffy proposition at best for a Razorback team in transition, but it’s a victory that probably has to happen for the prediction to come true.
That would leave the Razorbacks nine games to find their way to three victories. That might be a difficult task under the current situation, but with Ole Miss, Tulsa, Vanderbilt, and LSU all at home in the middle of the schedule, I’m predicting the Hogs will win six games this year.
Well, that’s four fairly juicy prognostications for you gnaw on. For now, I’ll take off my swami hat and put away my Magic 8-Ball. Maybe, at the end of the year, I’ll review the list and see how they went. Or maybe I won’t bother mentioning it.