I'm not an expert by any means, but here are my predictions for the 2014 Arkansas football season.
Aug. 30 – @ Auburn
For the first time since joining the conference in 1992, Arkansas will open the season against an SEC opponent – a very good SEC opponent at that. Auburn, fresh off an SEC Championship and loss in the BCS National Championship game, is favored by three touchdowns.
While quarterback Nick Marshall won’t start for the Tigers, I expect him to play all but the first series. That said, I believe Arkansas will play Auburn much closer than fans and odds makers think. Brandon Allen will have more touchdown passes than interceptions and one of the Razorbacks’ freshman wide receivers – JoJo Robinson or Jared Cornelius – will have a breakout game.
However, I think the Tigers will be too much for Arkansas to handle and will eventually win by two touchdowns
Auburn 38, Arkansas 24
Sept. 6 – vs. Nicholls State
Coming off a touch loss at Auburn, the Razorbacks will come out firing against FCS opponent Nicholls State. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams will probably not play much in the second half, giving fans a chance to see what Korliss Marshall can do.
When it’s all set and done, Arkansas could legitimately have three 100-yard rushers in this game. Allen will look sharp, but with the Razorbacks dominating the run game (and the time of possession), he won’t have to throw it that much.
Fans will be leaving Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium early, but with smiles on their faces.
Arkansas 49, Nicholls State 7
Sept. 13 – @ Texas Tech
Auburn will have a wide-open offense in week one, but Texas Tech will be Arkansas’ first true pass-happy offense to go up against this season.
The Razorbacks’ secondary will be tested and while I think it will be improved, I don’t see it stopping the Red Raiders. It would not surprise me if Arkansas gives up 400 yards through the air.
Brandon Allen and company won’t be able to keep up with the scoring.
Texas Tech 52, Arkansas 24
Sept. 20 – vs. Northern Illinois
Last year, Northern Illinois rattled off 12 straight wins before losing its last two games – in the MAC Championship and Poinsettia Bowl – but the Huskies will be without Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Lynch at quarterback.
More importantly to Arkansas, however, is the fact that Northern Illinois will have to replace its entire front four, which should allow the Razorbacks to move the ball on the ground. Collins, Williams and Marshall will pile up big yards again.
The perennial MAC powerhouse should give Arkansas a good game, but the Razorbacks will rebound from the Texas Tech game with a win.
Arkansas 31, Northern Illinois 17
Sept. 27 – vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)
When Arkansas and Texas A&M met in Arlington as non-conference opponents 2009-2011, the Razorbacks won all three games by an average score of 37.7-24.7, but the last two were decided by a touchdown or less.
I expect this year’s matchup in Jerry World to be another tight one. Allen will have a career day, throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. The loss of Johnny Football will hurt the Aggies, but being in the state of Texas will help them reload opposed to rebuild.
Arkansas will pull the upset and put itself in the driver’s seat to NOT finish last in the SEC West.
Arkansas 41, Texas A&M 35
Oct. 11 – vs. Alabama
No more shutouts. No more 52-0 scores. But still no win.
The Razorbacks are much better in 2014 than in the previous two years, but still aren’t ready to hang with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. In two starts against Alabama, Allen has completed fewer than 40 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions and no touchdowns.
That number should increase this season and I think Allen will manage to complete half of his passes and cross the 100-yard threshold, but the Razorbacks will still struggle.
Alabama 45, Arkansas 13
Oct. 18 – vs. Georgia (Little Rock)
When Georgia visits War Memorial Stadium, it will bring along All-SEC running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley.
The Bulldogs also have a very strong defense that includes All-SEC Ramik Wilson, as well as three other players selected to the preseason All-SEC teams at SEC Media Days. That means it will be a long day for Collins, Williams, Marshall and Allen.
Barring injuries or several more arrests, Georgia should beat the Razorbacks handedly.
Georgia 38, Arkansas 10
Oct. 25 – vs. UAB
After back-to-back games against SEC powers Alabama and Georgia, UAB will be a breath of fresh air for Arkansas.
The Blazers’ 2013 season ended in a 62-27 loss to a Southern Miss team that had lost its previous 23 games. Allen and the three-headed attack at running back will have a chance to break records in their final non-conference game of the season.
The Razorbacks should cruise to an easy victory and possibly post their first shutout since a 20-0 win over Utah State in 2006.
Arkansas 38, UAB 0
Nov. 1 – @ Mississippi State
The Bulldogs are a very experienced team with a Heisman Trophy dark-horse candidate at quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Last year, Arkansas had a chance to beat Mississippi State in regulation, but a Collins fumble allowed the game to go to overtime and the rest is history. I think Collins redeems himself with one of his best games of the season, with 150-plus yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Collins won’t be able to do it all by himself, though, and the Razorbacks lose a tough one.
Mississippi State 28, Arkansas 24
Nov. 15 – vs. LSU
The schedule lines up nicely for the Razorbacks this game. LSU will be coming off of its game against Alabama, while Arkansas will be coming off of a bye week.
Leonard Fournette has been hyped as a super star running back, but I think the true freshman will be a little roughed up after playing the Crimson Tide. Trey Flowers, Darius Philon and the rest of Arkansas’ defensive line will do its part to put the freshman in his place.
Of course, the Tigers always have a great defense, so fans could be in for a defensive struggle. I think LSU will eventually prevail.
LSU 24, Arkansas 13
Nov. 22 – vs. Ole Miss
With bowl eligibility on the line, the Razorbacks will be fired up to play the Rebels.
However, Ole Miss could be in the same position and will also be ready to play, meaning fans could be in for a classic shootout. I see at least one special teams touchdown and another good performance from Allen. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace will also having a good game.
I doubt this game will be decided in four quarters, but Arkansas will pull out the win in overtime.
Arkansas 41, Ole Miss 38 (OT)
Nov. 28 – @ Missouri
Arkansas will need a win at Missouri the day after Thanksgiving to earn a bowl berth. The Tigers surprised the country with their breakout season in 2013 and will take a step back in 2014, but will still be a contender in the SEC East.
Maty Mauk will be a full-time starting quarterback for the first time, but he got plenty of experience because of James Franklin’s injury last year. Allen will end the season on a high note, with 250 yards and two touchdowns through the air, but it won’t be enough for Arkansas.
No bowl game for the third straight year.
Missouri 31, Arkansas 24
RECORD: 5-7 (2-6)
Stats (difference from last year)
Points per game (based on predictions): 27.7 (+7)
Points allowed per game (based on predictions): 29.4 (-1.4)
Brandon Allen: 55% completion percentage (+5.4%), 2,250 yards (+698), 20 TD (+7), 12 int. (+2)
Alex Collins: 1,225 yards (+199), 11 TD (+7)
Jonathan Williams: 975 yards (+75), 8 TD (+4)
Korliss Marshall: 650 yards (+504), 4 TD (+4)
Receiving: Four players will have 400+ receiving yards (+2)
Total yards per game: 425 (+67.8)
Total yards allowed per game: 395 (-18.4)
All-SEC (as I voted at media days): Alex Collins (second team), Hunter Henry (first team), Trey Flowers (first team), Darius Philon (second team), Sam Irwin-Hill (first team)*
*I only voted for two teams, while three teams are recognized. My guess is that Philon will actually be third team All-SEC.
Freshman All-SEC: Jared Cornelius, Cole Hedlund, Bijhon Jackson, Frank Ragnow
Enrolling for the spring semester has proven to help college football players tremendously when it comes to learning the playbook and adjusting to college life.
I believe that is especially true for Jared Cornelius. While JoJo Robinson, Kendrick Edwards and Cody Hollister have received a lot of praise as incoming wide receivers, I think Cornelius will have the best year.
During spring practice, I noticed him hanging around Keon Hatcher, the veteran leader of the wide receivers. He would stretch with Hatcher and make sure he was near the front of lines with Hatcher. These seem like small things, but they are small things coaches love.
That’s why, in my opinion, Cornelius is primed for a breakout year for the Razorbacks.