Rant Sports College Football Rankings: No. 79 Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas Razorbacks

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After two consecutive disappointing seasons for the Arkansas Razorbacks, fans are hoping that the 2014 campaign will end more like the 2011 season — without the firing of a head coach, of course.

Winning four games under John L. Smith in 2012 and just three games with no conference victories in 2013 under new head coach Bret Bielema, the Razorbacks are hungry for their first bowl appearance since 2011. Having three head coaches in three years definitely didn’t help the Razorbacks’ chances of success.

Returning many key pieces on offense, but losing some top defensive pieces could make for an interesting year in Arkansas.

Offense

As I said before, the Razorbacks are returning some top pieces on this side of the ball. It all starts with the quarterback and that’s where Brandon Allen comes into play. The junior quarterback had a mediocre sophomore season in 2013 and the coaches are placing him in a three-quarterback race that is his to lose this offseason.

Passing for 1,552 yards and 13 touchdowns doesn’t seem absolutely awful for a first-year starter, but when you look at his completion percentage, 49.6, and interceptions, 10, you can see why the coaches are demanding more from him in 2014.

Returning stud sophomore tight end Hunter Henry will help the passing game as he had 28 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. Junior wide out Keon Hatcher will help things, too, as he had 27 catches for 346 yards and two scores last season.

The run game is not an issue — just like many of Beilema’s teams of the past.

Alex Collins returns for a sophomore season after compiling 1,026 yards and four scores in 2013 to go along with a solid backup in Jonathan Williams who had 900 yards and four TDs.

Defense

Arkansas did not have a very impressive defense in Bielema’s first year. The Razorbacks allowed nearly 415 yards of total offense per game and a ridiculous 6.1 yards per play to their opponents. The scoring defense was no better, ranking 89th in the nation in points against per game with 30.8.

It’s never a good thing when your safety is the leading tackler of your team, but that’s exactly what Alan Turner was for the Razorbacks in 2013. He lead the team with 97 tackles and was also first on the team with two interceptions and five pass breakups. Huge returning piece.

Senior linebacker Braylon Mitchell is another huge returning piece to the puzzle as he was second on the team in tackles last season, 77, in 11 games played.

Losing sack-artist Chris Smith hurts, but returning Darius Philon and Trey Flowers is huge for the defensive line. Philon had 46 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks last season while Flowers had 44 tackles, 13.5 for loss and five sacks.

Schedule

The schedule for the Razorbacks is not going to be easy — and rightfully so — seeing as they play in the dreaded SEC.

Seeing the nation’s top teams week after week is never an easy task but to be the best, you have to beat the best. The Razorbacks are looking to top their win totals combined in the last two seasons, just seven, and make a run at their first bowl game since 2011 under Bobby Petrino.

Toughest Games: Aug. 30 at Auburn, Sept. 13 at Texas Tech, Sept. 27 vs. Texas A&M, Oct. 11 vs. Alabama, Oct. 18 vs. Georgia, Nov. 15 vs. LSU and Nov. 28 at Missouri.

As much as I like the returning pieces on the offensive side of the ball, especially the running backs, I don’t see the Razorbacks making a bowl game in 2014. They will end up 5-7 and miss out because of a loss in the final week of the season to Missouri on the road.

Connor Muldowney is the Content Associate for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at connor.muldowney@rantsports.com.

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