For the longest time, well beyond the limit of most Hog fans, Sports Illustrated kept the faith.
Before this season even began, a writer for the preeminent publication predicted the Hogs would win six games and get into the Independence Bowl come December 26. Then, when things looked ugly against Portland State and Ole Miss early on, SI still believed in Chad.
Amazingly, those East Coasters stayed all Hog even after the San Jose State loss and college football betting lines out of Vegas said otherwise. After the close loss to Texas A&M, which dropped to Arkansas to its current 2-3 record, Sports Illustrated’s Michael Shapiro still predicted the Hogs would eke out four more wins and find themselves in the Independence Bowl against Pitt.
After the Hogs’ week off, however, it appears someone finally woke Shapiro up. He recently took Arkansas out of the SI’s 2019 Independence Bowl prediction. Shapiro added in Virginia Tech (3-2) as the ACC representative.
And for the SEC representative?
None other than the Hogs’ next opponent, Kentucky.
Kentucky’s record is also 2-3, so it’s a safe bet that the Sports Illustrated braintrust believes Kentucky will beat Arkansas to hit the halfway mark on its eventual necessary six wins for a bowl berth.
Arkansas comes into this road game as 6.5 point underdogs. The Hogs have a few things working in their favor, including the fact that Kentucky’s top two quarterbacks are besieged by injury. The Hogs, meanwhile, should have all their stars healthy and playing together — a rare occurrence this season.
“I think it provides great continuity when you are able to do that, we’ve only had one game where we’ve had our entire wide receivers corps out there with Nick Starkel,” Chad Morris said in his most recent press conference. “I think it helps us continue to build on what we saw in the Colorado State game. It’s been good this week in practice.”
As I wrote for this site earlier this week, “Expect Rakeem Boyd, who is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, to do his usual damage against Kentucky. But things should open up for his RB peers, Chase Hayden and Devwah Whaley, as well because Arkansas’ receiving game is starting to heat up.
The Hogs have four legit, big-time playmakers to stretch the field in Mike Woods, Treylon Burks, Trey Knox and Cheyenne O’Grady. After a week of healing, all four should be ready to go. Their presence will open up plenty of running lanes for the Arkansas backs.”
If the Razorbacks do run roughshod over Kentucky on Saturday, then they will be right back in SI’s Independence Bowl berth saddle. Heading into a game nearly halfway through the season with such implications isn’t exactly what Hog fans were dreaming about in August, but it will have to do for now.
At least they can take solace in knowing a national media outlet had their back — seemingly against all reason.