The Arkansas Razorbacks overcame a slow start to finish up a respectable 8-5 in 2015. Things didn’t look good early. The Razorbacks lost back-to-back non-conference games against Toledo and Texas Tech. They then lost their SEC opener to Texas A&M to open up a mere 1-3.
They bounced back in a big way with a surprising 24-20 win at Tennessee. After a 14-27 loss at Alabama, they proceeded to win 5 of their last 6. They then capped things off with a 45-23 blowout win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.
Last year’s 8-wins continued the teams improvement under head coach Brett Bielema. In year one they went just 2-6 with a 0-8 record in the SEC. They improved to 7-6 and 2-6 in year two. Last year they finished 8-5 with an impressive 5-3 record inside conference play.
It won’t be easy improving on last year’s win total, as the Razorbacks lose a lot from last season. Oddsmakers have their win total set at just 7.5, which is a full game less than what it was last year. Here’s my take on Arkansas for the 2016 campaign.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|9/24||Texas A&M (Arlington)|
|11/19||@ Mississippi State|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.
The Razorbacks will be tested once again in non-conference play. They open up at home against a dangerous Louisiana Tech team that is coming off a 9-win season. They then have to travel to TCU to take on a talented Horned Frogs squad.
After a cupcake came at home against Texas State, they kickoff SEC play with Texas A&M in Arlington. After another gimme against Alcorn State at home, Arkansas heads into a critical stretch.
They will play four of their next five at home with the lone road contest coming at Auburn. The problem is the four home games are all against top level opponents. Those being Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida and LSU.
They close things out with two winnable road games against Mississippi State and Missouri.
The biggest question facing Arkansas this year is how they will replace two key stars on offense. The Razorbacks lose both starting quarterback Brandon Allen and running back Alex Collins.
Allen threw for 3,440 yards with an impressive 30 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions. Collins on the other hand rushed for a team-high 1,577 yards and 20 touchdowns. Note they also lose running back Jonathan Williams, who missed all of last year. Williams was the team’s leading rusher in 2014 with 1,190 yards.
The good news is that Bielema’s scheme always seems to get production at running back. Arkansas has also recruited very well at the position. The frontrunner to start is sophomore Rawleigh Williams, who is a highly touted recruit. They also add in another big recruit in true freshman Devwah Whaley.
The bad news is it won’t be so easy replacing Allen at quarterback. Even with the projected new starter being his brother Austin Allen. Teams are going to load the box and force Arkansas to beat them with the pass. I’m not saying Allen can’t produce, I just don’t think he will take as good of care of the ball.
The Razorbacks also lose a key piece in tight end Hunter Henry, who was a 2nd round draft pick. He caught 51 passes for 739 yards and 3 scores. However, they do have a lot coming back. Including senior wide out Drew Morgan, who caught 10 touchdowns last year.
Maybe the biggest concern for Arkansas is the lack of experience up front on the offensive line. The Razorbacks lose 3 starters from last year and will have just 47 career starts returning. The 3 new starters are expected to be 2 sophomores and a red-shirt freshman. The good news is all 5 projected starters are over 300 lbs, so it will remain one of the biggest front 5 in the country.
Last year Arkansas’ defense took a major step back. After giving up just 19.2 ppg in 2014, they allowed 27.4 ppg. Giving up 45+ points on 3 separate occasions.
With 9 starters back on this side of the ball, this unit is in great shape to bounce back in 2016.
Up front they get 3 starters back, led by senior defensive end Deatrich Wise, who led the team with 8 sacks. They also get back senior defensive tackles Jeremiah Ledbetter and Taiwan Johnson. The new starter is expected to be true freshman defensive end McTelvin Agim. Considering how deep this unit is, that shows you how highly they think of Agim.
All 3 starters return at linebacker. The leader is senior middle linebacker Brooks Ellis. Though the best of the bunch may be sophomore Dre Greenlaw, who shined as a true freshman last year. Junior Khalia Hackett and Kevin Richards will compete for the other starting spot.
Last year Arkansas’ secondary was a weak spot. The Hogs allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.2% of their attempts. The highest mark in over a decade. With 3 starters back and 9 of the top 10 from last year, this should be a much improved unit. The key will be finding a replacement at strong safety for the departed Rohan Gaines.
Regular Season Win Total
SEC West Odds
SEC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
As much as I like Bielema and the direction he has the Razorbacks moving in, I think 2016 is going to be a challenging season. The SEC West is the toughest division in all of college football. I believe not having an experienced signal caller is going to be detrimental to their success.
I have them losing on the road to TCU early and going just 2-6 inside SEC play. I know they only have 3 true conference road games, but the 4 at home are absolutely brutal. There best opportunities for wins are all on the road. That’s a recipe for disaster in the SEC, as no road game is an easy win in this conference. It’s safe to say that Arkansas UNDER 7.5 is one of my favorite win total bets this year.
Win Total Prediction