The Razorbacks' quick turnaround after their season opening loss to Auburn has turned heads and caught the attention of national media
Arkansas' improvement is evident to every person across the country who has tuned in to a game this season. But if those same people have tuned in to a game featuring an SEC West school, however, they, too, would realize the quick and impressive start by Arkansas this season is just par for the course in college football's toughest division.
The SEC's Western division is simply the best division in college football. It's been this way for quite some time, and it's not even debatable anymore. The West is practically a Power 5 conference all on it's own.
What is also not arguable is that the division is currently at an all-time high in regards to competitiveness from top to bottom. More than half of the division has a shot at making the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Six of seven schools in the West are ranked in the latest Amway Coaches Poll. Arkansas was the odd man out. The remaining six schools can all be found in the top 18 in the poll. Mississippi State found its way into the poll at No. 16 after an impressive win in Baton Rouge last weekend in front of more than 102,000 crazy, drunk, screaming Cajuns. The Tigers, however, fell 10 spots and landed at No. 18.
Alabama and Auburn lead the way in the division, each ranking inside the top 5. Texas A&M comes in at No. 7 and Ole Miss has quietly reached No. 11. But it's not as if Arkansas' impressive start to the season has gone unnoticed. The Razorbacks received 17 points in the Coaches Poll, meaning every team in the division is either ranked inside the top 20 or receiving a respectable amount of votes. No one else, no other division in America can say that.
Teams in the West cannot afford to take a week off. There is no more overlooking teams, no more guaranteed wins like you can find in the other so-called top football conferences. The Big Ten has Illinois, Minnesota, and Purdue, the Big 12 has Iowa State, Kansas and dare I say Texas, who is off to a tragically bad start, the ACC has Wake Forest, Boston College and Syracuse, and the Pac-12 has Washington State and Colorado to beat up on each week.
The SEC has only Vanderbilt. But, the Commodores gave the Head Ball Coach and No. 15 South Carolina all they wanted and more last weekend. It took a 21-point fourth quarter for the Gamecocks to escape Nashville alive.
Kentucky, who is not a pushover anymore either, Arkansas and Mississippi State have been the unquestioned surprises of the SEC thus far. Mark Stoops and Bret Bielema have made leaps building their respective programs from the ground up, while Dan Mullen has done wonders over the last few years bringing the Bulldogs back to respectability. All three are no longer considered gimmes in conference play.
But with the current state of the SEC, and the West in particular, Arkansas getting off to a terrific start is what they had to do to keep up in the division. Alabama, Auburn, and Texas A&M wait for no one. Teams in the SEC West must get busy winning or be the black sheep of the division. It's that simple. And while Arkansas deservedly garners attention from the talking heads and the national media for their improvement, they still sit in the bottom of the division heading toward a huge showdown with the Aggies.
Here's a final stat to ponder: the SEC West is the only division among Power 5 conferences to not have a team currently at or below the .500 mark this season.
Arkansas' start to the season has been remarkably impressive considering the low expectations, I'm not denying that fact. But these days in the SEC, it's just par for the course.