Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 Arkansas football predictions

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)
Postseason recognition
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
Breakout player
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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Watch Lists Update

Last week, I did a blog post about the many players named to watch lists between July 7 and July 11. Here's an update that I think you might find interesting now that all 16 watch lists have been announced (the final one came out Friday).

My favorite watch list is probably the Lombardi Award watch list, which features 123 players. Believe it or not, the list will actually be updated before the season starts to include other players that receive "significant pre-season honors."

My advice: Put your game film together and send it in. You might get named to the updated watch list!

Here are the final stats from the 16* watch lists.

  • Of the 128 FBS schools, only seven do not have at least one player on a single watch list.
    • Those schools are: Buffalo, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Massachusetts, Miami (OH), Southern Miss and Wake Forest
    • That means 94.5 percent of all FBS schools had at least one player on a watch list.
    • Georgia Southern is playing its first season at the FBS level in 2014, while Georgia State will be playing its second FBS season (and fifth season ever after being founded in 2010). Massachusetts did not join the FBS ranks until 2011.
  • Wake Forest is the only school from a major conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC) without at least one player on a single watch list.
    • Here's a list of schools in major conferences that had three or fewer watch list appearances (each time a player is on a different watch list, it counts as one - for example: Arkansas Trey Flowers is on three watch lists, so he counts as three)...
      • Wake Forest (ACC): 0
      • Oklahoma State (Big XII): 1
      • Washington State (Pac-12): 1
      • Boston College (ACC): 2
      • Colorado (Pac-12): 2
      • Georgia Tech (ACC): 2
      • Purdue (Big Ten): 2
      • Vanderbilt (SEC): 2
      • Illinois (Big Ten): 3
      • Kentucky (SEC): 3
      • North Carolina State (ACC): 3
  • Alabama led all teams with 27 watch list appearances. Here's a list of all schools with at least 15 appearances on watch lists…
    • Alabama (SEC): 27
    • Stanford (Pac-12): 26
    • Florida State (ACC): 25
    • USC (Pac-12): 24
    • Oregon (Pac-12): 23
    • Michigan State (Big Ten): 21
    • Georgia (SEC): 20
    • Texas (Big XII): 20
    • Baylor (Big XII): 19
    • Duke (ACC): 19
    • Oklahoma (Big XII): 18
    • TCU (Big XII): 16
    • UCLA (Pac-12): 16
    • Kansas State (Big XII): 15
    • Notre Dame (Ind.): 15
    • Ohio State (Big Ten): 15
    • Washington (Pac-12): 15
  • Of the 17 teams that had 15 or more watch list appearances, only TCU (4-8) had a losing record in 2013. Only six did not win at least 10 games last season.
    • Those teams are: TCU (4), Georgia (8), Kansas State (8), Texas (8), Notre Dame (9) and Washington (9)
  • Arkansas was one of 37 teams that had at least 10 watch list appearances. Of those 37 teams, three had losing records in 2013.
    • Those teams are: Arkansas (3-9), Florida (4-8) and TCU (4-8)
  • The SEC had the most watch list appearances, with 146. Here's how many all conferences had…
    • SEC: 146
    • Pac-12: 144
    • Big Ten: 118
    • ACC: 117
    • Big XII: 111
    • MWC: 65
    • American: 62
    • C-USA: 47
    • Independents: 37
    • MAC: 33
    • Sun Belt: 33
  • However, if you factor in the fact that the SEC has 14 teams and the Pac-12 has 12 teams, the Pac-12 has more watch list appearances per team…
    • Pac-12: 12 (12 teams)
    • Big XII: 11.1 (10 teams)
    • SEC: 10.34 (14 teams)
    • Big Ten: 8.43 (14 teams)
    • ACC: 8.36 (14 teams)
    • American: 5.64 (11 teams)
    • MWC: 5.42 (12 teams)
    • C-USA: 3.62 (13 teams)
    • Sun Belt: 3 (11 teams)
    • MAC: 2.54 (12 teams)
*The 16 watch lists I used for these stats are: Paul Hornung Award, Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award, Mackey Award, Rimington Trophy, Lou Groza Award, Ray Guy Award, Nagurski Trophy, Outland Trohpy, Jim Thorpe Award, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Biletnikoff Award, Davey O'Brien Award, Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Award.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Watch Lists Galore

With football season a little over a month away, it's the time of year again when watch lists for all of the college football awards start coming out.

Each list features prominent names (Jameis Winston, Bryce Petty, Marcus Mariota, etc.) and, well, less prominent names (Old Dominion's Antonio Vaughan, UAB's Hunter Mullins, etc.).

I find the sheer volume of names on the list to be borderline ridiculous. For example, the Rimington Trophy (best center) watch list initially included 64 players. Idaho's Mike Marboe and UTSA's Nate Leonard were added to the list Tuesday, bringing the total to 66 players. (yes, Idaho and UTSA play at the FBS level, in the Mountain Belt of America Conference, or something like that).

With 128 schools playing at the FBS level in 2014, that means 51.6 percent of schools have their center on the watch list. Sure, the Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player) watch list included more players (81), but that is choosing from a field of more than 1,408 players (11 defensive players x 128 schools).

There is only one center on the field at a time.

Here are some more interesting stats I found while looking at the 10* watch lists that have been released so far.

  • Of the 128 FBS schools, only 15 do not have at least one player on a single watch list.
    • Those schools are: Appalachian State, Ball State, Buffalo, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Massachusetts, Miami (OH), Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, Texas State, Troy, Wake Forest, Washington State and Wyoming.
  • Of the 70 teams that play in one of the six power conferences (American, ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC), only three do not have at least one player on a single watch list.
    • Those schools are: Oklahoma State (Big XII), Wake Forest (ACC) and Washington State (Pac-12).
  • There are 46 schools with at least five watch list appearances. (If a player is on multiple watch lists, he is counted for each watch list he is on. For example, Arkansas' Trey Flowers is on the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy watch lists, while Alex Collins, Hunter Henry, Sam Irwin-Hill and Jonathan Williams are each on only one watch list. There are five different players, but Arkansas has six watch list appearances.)
    • Only four of those teams had a losing record in 2013.
      • Arkansas: six appearances, 3-9 record
      • Florida: eight appearances, 4-8 record
      • Northwestern: five appearances, 5-7 record
      • TCU: 11 appearances, 4-8 record
  • There are 13 schools with at least 10 watch list appearances.
    • TCU is the only one of those teams that had a losing record in 2013.
    • The other 12 schools had a combined winning percentage of .789 in 2013.
    • Only three schools, other than TCU, failed to win at least 10 games last season (Georgia, Texas and Washington).
  • Alabama (not surprisingly) leads the country with 17 watch list appearances.
    • Here's the top 13...
      • Alabama: 17
      • Florida State: 16
      • Michigan State: 16
      • Stanford: 16
      • Oregon: 14
      • USC: 14
      • Duke: 13
      • Oklahoma: 13
      • Texas: 12
      • Georgia: 11
      • TCU: 11
      • Washington: 11
      • Baylor: 10
*For my stats, I included the Paul Hornung Award watch list that was released Monday but for some reason isn't usually included in lists of college football awards. Other watch lists released last week were the Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award, Mackey Award, Rimington Trophy, Lou Groza Award, Ray Guy Award, Nagurski Trophy, Outland Trophy and Jim Thorpe Award.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Defending Soccer: My Response to Ann Coulter

Every once in a while I read something that flat out infuriates me. After seeing the name "Ann Coulter" on Twitter several times and hearing it mentioned on ESPN, I finally looked up what everyone was talking about.

What I found was a crazy, delusional rant by a narrow-minded, bigoted woman. It was so unbelievable and infuriating that I felt compelled to respond to it. (Click here if you haven't read it. Brace yourself.)

Ms. Coulter,

Let me start by giving a disclaimer. I am a Republican and was raised in a Republican household. I identify with many Republican values. I am also Christian and have lived in Arkansas (part of the Bible Belt and a "red" state) my entire life. The 2012 presidential election was my first opportunity to vote and I was extremely excited to vote for Romney. My parents and I discuss our displeasure with Obama all the time. While I am not as extreme as you, I definitely lean more right than left.

Also, by no means am I a huge soccer fan. I will watch it this month, but I probably won't watch much between the end of this World Cup and the start of the next one. I am a much bigger baseball, basketball and football fan, but I enjoy a good soccer game every now and then.

Now on to your article. First of all, in your first sentence you make a reference to how long soccer games last. You obviously know nothing about sports. Soccer matches have two 45-minute halves sandwiched around a 15-minute halftime. I'll do the math for you - that's 105 minutes, or one hour and 45 minutes. That might stretch to a full two hours once you factor in the stoppage time.

The great thing about soccer is that there are no commercial breaks. I am a HUGE football fan (I even played football in high school), but the games take forever. I can't tell you how many times I watch a game and this sequence happens: touchdown, commercial, extra point, commercial, kickoff, commercial. About 20 seconds of game time turns into 20 minutes. Guess how long 20 seconds takes in soccer. Twenty seconds! That's how long 20 seconds takes! So when I say soccer games last two hours, that means a game that starts at 6 p.m. will end at 8 p.m. Football and baseball games, on the other hand, last an average of three hours and routinely hit the four-hour mark.

Your article also nicely lays out your nine arguments against soccer. I'll respond to each one.

(1) To say there are "no heroes" or "individual achievement" in soccer is absurd. If you paid attention to the World Cup, you would know names like Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar. You should at least know Clint Dempsey, who has garnered plenty of praise for his play for the United States.

As for Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar? All Messi has done is score four goals in three games. Neymar also had four goals in his first three games. And in the fourth game? He made the game-winning penalty kick. Ronaldo had only one goal (a game-winning goal), but he also had an assist that broke millions of American hearts. So if "individual achievement is not a big factor," how do I, and millions of other people around the world, know these individual names?

(You should look up the "FIFA Ballon d'Or." That is soccer's MVP award and it's given to the best player in the WORLD, opposed to the MVP awards in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, which are given to the best player in largely American leagues.)

(2) You're right when you say that sports shouldn't be co-ed. At the professional level, it is very difficult for women and men to compete against each other.

However, what you're arguing is that because girls and boys can play soccer together in kindergarten, it's not a real sport. By that reasoning, baseball, basketball and football aren't real sports either.

When I played tee-ball, there was a girl on my team and she was probably the best athlete on the field. I also played with girls in basketball when I was that age. When my little brother played pee wee football, the best player on his team was a girl that ran all over the boys. That can happen at a young age. It's not uncommon.

(3) I cannot argue the fact that there are more scoreless ties in soccer than any other sport. Your comparison to football is not a very good one, though.

You say that scoring in football is much harder than in soccer because "a half-dozen 300-pound bruisers are trying to crush you." What you fail to mention is that you also have "a half-dozen 300-pound bruisers" on the field with the sole duty of protecting you. Because of that, quarterbacks are able to pick apart defenses and score points in bunches.

If you watched the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning last season, you would know how easy it is to score in football these days.

(4) Yes, soccer is not as violent as football, but soccer also doesn't have multi-million dollar lawsuits against it.

Is it just a bunch of people running around singing Kumbaya? Absolutely not. Example A (around the 30-second mark). Example B. (Don't watch if you have a weak stomach.)

I'd say soccer has just as much risk as baseball.

(5) "You can't use your hands in soccer." Duh. That's why soccer is entertaining. What these players are able to do without hands is incredible. They display amazing acts of athleticism without using what many of us take for granted. And isn't that what draws us to sports? Seeing people do things that the average person can't?

(6) No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to watch soccer. I assume you know how a remote control works - change the channel. No one has forced me to watch HBO's "Girls" (in fact, I've never even heard of it).

The reason The New York Times writes articles about it is because it's news. As a journalism major at the University of Arkansas, I learned what makes something newsworthy. Among the newsworthy characteristics is timeliness and with the World Cup (the most popular worldwide sporting event) going on, it is timely. It is also news because it is happening, whether you like it or not (I'll talk more about that later).

(7) The fact that soccer is foreign should make you want the U.S. to be successful even more. If Team USA wins the gold medal in basketball at the Olympics, who cares? It was expected. Anything less than a gold medal would be considered a failure.

At the World Cup, however, if the U.S. wins, it is beating a country at their own game. Ghana has to live with the fact that it lost to a country that is relatively new on the soccer scene. Portugal, a world powerhouse, needed a prayer to tie the U.S. and didn't advance to the next round. Can you imagine how those fans feel?

Remember how good it felt to beat the U.S.S.R. in hockey back in 1980? It felt good because, well we beat the communists, but also because it wasn't supposed to happen. We beat them at their own game.

(8) People "adore" the metric system because it is easier than our system. Sure, we understand 12 inches = 1 foot and 3 feet = 1 yard, but that's because we have grown up around it. Can you tell me, off the top of your head, how many feet are in a mile? How about how many yards are in a mile?

While I will tell someone the temperature in Fahrenheit, it is much easier to remember that water's freezing point is 0 degrees Celsius and its boiling point is 100 degrees Celsius. I am not starting a petition to switch to the metric system, but to say it isn't easy is silly. Or you're just dumb.

I also want to poke a hole in your theory that "an inch is the width of a man's thumb, a foot the length of his foot, a yard the length of his belt" and that is "easy to visualize." What would you say to a man like me that has small feet? The length of my foot is not 12 inches. I also have a very small waist and small hands. What about Shaquille O'Neal? His feet are much longer than 12 inches. The things you mention are relative.

How do I visualize 147.2 centimeters? Easy. I visualize it as 1.472 meters (notice how the decimal moved and the numbers stayed the same? Crazy huh?!).

(I would also like to note that at the same time the French were "committing mass murder by guillotine," we had millions of African-Americans enslaved. Which one would you be more proud of? Another note: Our system developed from the British imperial system, which we had before we declared our independence. Instead of coming up with our own system, we copied the country that was taxing us without representation. Again, are you proud of that?)

(9) Just because a World Cup match does not have the same ratings as a football game, that does not mean soccer isn't gaining popularity. The way you judge whether or not something is growing in popularity, or "catching on," is by comparing ratings in the past to current ratings in the SAME sport.

Football is an established sport in the United States and is unquestionably the most popular sport in the country. No one is saying that soccer is more popular, which your argument seems to claim.

The headlines you are referring to are saying exactly what's happening. Thousands of people across the country are going to public viewing parties in Kansas City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities. Any time there are large gatherings like that, it will draw headlines. That's how the news works.

Finally, you end your complaint with a shocking claim: "I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer." FALSE! All four of my great-grandfathers were born in the U.S. and I have been watching soccer since the World Cup started. Not only that, but both of my grandfathers served in the military for this country. My father's father served in the Navy and worked on submarines during the Cold War, while my mother's father served in the Air Force and was shot down in Vietnam.

I am as American as they come, but here I am watching soccer. You better get used to it.

My final plea to you is this: Stick to politics and stay out of sports. One of the many reasons I love sports is because it doesn't matter what your political views or affiliations are. If you love the Dallas Cowboys, you get along with other Dallas Cowboys fans. If you love baseball, you can carry on a conversation about whether Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens should be allowed in the Hall of Fame or not.

So please, for me and the rest of America, shut up.


Andrew Hutchinson

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

ARPreps: Who Are Arkansas Preps' Greatest Pros?

These stories originally appeared on from June 5-13, 2014.

Did you know eight professional hall of fame players graduated from Arkansas high schools?
It was a difficult task selecting the 10 best professional players who played high school sports in The Natural State. A diverse panel of reporters and spectators came up with the list we will unveil over the course of the next week.
Our list is packed with talented athletes. It was so packed, in fact, the honorable mention list includes:

Click here to continue reading.

Top 10 (links)

-No. 10
-No. 9
-No. 8
-No. 7
-No. 6
-No. 5
-No. 4
-No. 3
-No. 2
-No. 1