The 2013-14 Arkansas football season will be the beginning of (hopefully) an exciting new era under Bret Bielema. But not only is the opening kickoff of the new season the beginning of this new era, it will allow Arkansas fans everywhere to finally put the disaster that was the season of 2012 behind them for good.
As a student at the University of Arkansas, I have seen first hand the Arkansas football program at its peak after winning the 2012 AT&T Cotton Bowl, and I have seen the program at its absolute worst in just my first two years at Arkansas. For me, the low point wasn't going down in flames against ULM or being kneed in the groin by Alabama 52-0. It came while in College Station, losing to Johnny Football and the Aggies 58-10, when an Arkansas defensive back started blowing chunks on the field after chasing down Manziel. That was rock bottom for me. That one play epitomized the entire season, as I'm sure it did for many others who follow the Razorback program.
Sometimes as fans we are blinded by homerism, thinking the team we pull for is the best no matter what happens and we hate it when people take stabs at our team even if what they are saying is right on the money. Somehow for Arkansas fan (including myself), it took more than a sex scandal within the athletic department and a motorcycle wreck with a hot, ex-volleyball playing blonde riding on the back to realize that Arkansas was in trouble when the fall of 2012 rolled around. I predicted Arkansas to go 10-2 and make a big time bowl game. And looking back now, I can not believe how naive I was; I can not believe how naive we were as a fan base. With all that had taken place following the Cotton Bowl win and the top-5 finish, we expected little to change after our head coach was fired, John L. Smith was hired on a temporary basis, and several key players form 2011 departed for the NFL.
Enough on 2012. I now want to give Arkansas' 2013 football schedule a realistic look.
You'll see point spreads given throughout the course of the read. All spreads are according to the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, NV.
Here is my breakdown of Arkansas' schedule:
August 31 -- Louisiana Lafayette
Finally, Arkansas fans can take a sigh of relief; the Bobby Petrino/JLS era is over.
Louisiana Lafayette will be no pushover for Arkansas. After finishing 9-4, good for second in the Sun Belt behind Arkansas State, the Ragin' Cajuns are coming off back-to-back New Orleans Bowl wins and will be a very confident football team. However, I can't foresee ULL taking down Arkansas. Arkansas by 3 TDs. 1-0.
September 7 -- Samford
Last year, Samford lost to Kentucky 34-3. As bad as Arkansas was last year, Arkansas beat the Wildcats 49-7. If we lose to Samford I will probably lose my damn mind. Arkansas in a rout. 2-0.
September 14 -- Southern Mississippi
Southern Miss did not win a single football game last season (0-12). They may have had the only defense worse than Arkansas'. Arkansas in another rout. 3-0.
September 21 -- at Rutgers
Obviously, Rutgers will be Arkansas' first real test of the season before the gauntlet of the schedule begins. In 2012 Rutgers came in and stole the game from Arkansas. Even Cobi Hamilton's record-setting day couldn't make up for how awful the Arkansas defense was.
But this year, I like Arkansas to steal one from Rutgers. The first road game of the season will be a test, but one I think Bielema gets the guys up for. Arkansas steals one in Piscataway. 4-0.
September 28 -- Texas A&M
The Aggies open up as a 17-point favorite over the Hogs in Fayetteville. If I'm putting money on this game, I'm taking JFF and the points and running. Manziel put up over 700 yards of offense and 58 points on Arkansas last year. I don't exactly see what it is that is going to keep him from putting up impressive numbers again this season. I have the Aggies in a lopsided game. 4-1.
It could get really ugly before it's all said and done.
October 5 -- at Florida
Florida opens up as a 17-point favorite over Arkansas. Again, I would definitely take the points and run. Florida rarely ever loses in the Swamp, plus Arkansas will be beaten up from the Texas A&M loss.
Arkansas fans remember all too well what happened the last time the Hogs made the trip to Gainesville in 2009. A phantom unnecessary roughness penalty took the winds out of Arkansas' sails in trying to take down #1 Florida, and the Gators escaped 23-20.
Florida wins this game and I don't think it's just by 3 points. I take Florida and the points. Arkansas falls to 4-2.
October 12 -- South Carolina
South Carolina is a 12-point favorite on Arkansas' homecoming. Arkansas was handled easily last year in Colombia without Marcus Lattimore, 38-20, with Arkansas scoring a late touchdown. Nonetheless, I again would take South Carolina and the points even with the game being in Fayetteville.
I'm most looking forward to this game because I get to see Jadeveon CLowney wreak havoc on the football field. That's basically it. Hogs fall to 4-3.
October 29 -- at Alabama
The Crimson Tide are 29-point favorites as betting opens up, and in my opinion, it's not enough. With the game being in Tuscaloosa, I don't like Arkansas' chances to be in the game for very long. I just hope they put this game on ESPN3 so the whole country can't see the beatdown.
I don't expect anything to change from last year's 52-0 game. Maybe Arkansas can score this year?
Hopefully Katherine Webb makes an appearance and somewhat makes everything better for about 5 seconds.
October 26 -- Bye Week
Finally, a win!
November 2 -- Auburn
Arkansas is actually favored to win this game, projected as a 3.5-point favorite.
Over the past few years, I can sense Arkansas fans have developed a strong dislike for Auburn. Part of it may be about Michael Dyer and him choosing Auburn instead of staying in state to play college ball for Arkansas, but to be honest I think it's just that no one likes Auburn.
I'll take Arkansas and the points. Hell, it could be the only conference game the Hogs win all year, so why not?
November 9 -- at Ole Miss
Ole Miss has made waves in the SEC in the last few years, and with their dynamic recruiting class coming in this year, I expect the Rebels to continue making progress. Ole Miss impressively came into Little Rock and took a game from Arkansas. It's a sign of new times in Oxford.
Ole Miss by 3 scores. Hogs fall to 5-5. Still just one win from bowl eligibility.
November 16 -- Bye Week
With the brutal schedule Arkansas has, the toughest in the SEC, it will be great to come up on bye weeks as fans, too.
November 23 -- Mississippi State
Tyler Russell is one of the more underrated QBs in the conference, and Arkansas' secondary will again be one of the primary questions. Russell had an impressive year in 2012, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 24 TDs. Russell along with LaDarius Perkins will be a handful for Arkansas. They'll again be too much for Arkansas just like last season in Starkville. Bulldogs by a pair of touchdowns. 5-6.
I flipped and flopped on this game. This game is basically a toss-up with it being in Little Rock. Very well could be Arkansas' 6th win, but I don't believe it will be.
November 29 -- at LSU
LSU has opened up as a 17-point favorite (17 seems to be the magic number with Arkansas) in what could be the last LSU-Arkansas Black Friday game. In rivalry games, anything can happen, like Arkansas covering the spread last year and beating #1 LSU in Death Valley in 2007.
The last time Arkansas went to LSU, the Tigers put the hammer down on Arkansas when teams were both top-3 in the nation.
I am, however, picking Arkansas to cover the spread again, but lose the game. I think Coach Bielema will emphasize the importance of this rivalry game and the chance to beat your rival to become bowl eligible in year one. Hogs end the season 5-7 in Bielema's first year.
Overall record: 5-7
Conference record: 1-7