LITTLE ROCK — Review of a year-old column did more to shake my confidence than missing a 2-foot putt.
Predicting Arkansas’ record in 2013, I concluded that the record would hinge on road games at Rutgers and Ole Miss and in-state games vs. Auburn and Mississippi State and decided the Razorbacks would be 3-1 in those games. The only correct prognostication was the Rebels’ victory. Auburn might have been the worse miss — a 35-17 loss that was predicted to be 23-21 in Arkansas’ column. Under misery loves company, nobody else saw Gus Malzahn’s first team playing for the national championship.
The four swing games were prefaced with the idea that Arkansas could not beat Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, or LSU and that, “If true, 7-5 is the maximum and 3-9 is possible.”
As Razorback fans know, a possibility became reality.
The analysis of the upcoming season begins with the conviction that Arkansas will beat Nicholls State, Northern Illinois, and UAB and lose to Auburn and Alabama.
To win six and become bowl eligible, Arkansas must be no worse than 1-1 in Texas against former Southwest Conference opponents Texas Tech and Texas A&M.
Oddly, I like the Razorbacks’ chances against the Aggies better than I do against the Red Raiders.
Sans quarterback Johnny Manziel, wide receiver Mike Evans, and tackle Jake Matthews — all picked in the first round of the NFL draft — there is no way the Aggies can be as proficient on offense as they were in 2013. First in scoring in the SEC, A&M was last in rushing defense and Arkansas’ offense begins with running the ball. Kyle Allen, who graduated high school early so he could participate in spring practice at A&M, may be the Aggies’ starting quarterback.
In Arlington, Arkansas has a chance to end an SEC losing streak that began in mid-October 2012 … ARKANSAS 28, A&M 27.
Productive when healthy, Tech quarterback Davis Webb missed the last two games of the season, but was 28-of-41 for 403 yards and four touchdowns in a bowl victory over Arizona State. Although Arkansas’ secondary is supposed to be more aggressive, I’m not convinced the group can withstand 40-plus passes by Webb. Controlling the ball would help Arkansas’ cause. If Tech needs a late score, I’m siding with Webb … TEXAS TECH 37, ARKANSAS 35.
If the seven predictions above are accurate, the Razorbacks will be 4-3 with five SEC games to consider.
One opinion on those contests:
Oct. 18, Georgia in Little Rock: Running back Todd Gurley vs. Arkansas’ trio, plus Georgia’s new defensive coordinator vs. Arkansas’ new guy in charge. Hired in January by Mark Richt, Jeremy Pruitt has coached on three straight national championship teams at Alabama and Florida State, and has more to work with than Arkansas’ Robb Smith … GEORGIA 24, ARKANSAS 20.
Behind Auburn’s Nick Marshall, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Missouri’s Maty Mauk might be the most productive quarterbacks in the SEC. Prescott only started seven games last year and did not play in the victory in Little Rock … MISSISSIPPI STATE 21, ARKANSAS 17.
Nov. 15, LSU in Fayetteville: Seems like quarterback play is always in question in Baton Rouge. The thing is, the Tigers have so many athletes they can win in spite of their quarterback … LSU 28, ARKANSAS 20.
Nov. 22, Ole Miss in Fayetteville: Not every team in the Western Division of the SEC can be 4-4 or better in conference play and Ole Miss has a string of five straight league games before a breather, an open date, and Arkansas … ARKANSAS 24, OLE MISS 23
Nov. 29, at Missouri: Rebuilding, the Tigers would be more vulnerable early in the season. As a freshman starter, Mauk was 3-1 in SEC play … MISSOURI 31, ARKANSAS 28
All told, 5-7. Repeating the closing line from the 2013 column, if Arkansas is 6-6, Bret Bielema “should be considered for SEC Coach of the Year.”
Harry King is a sports columnist. His email is HLeonK42@gmail.com.