By Otis Kirk
Arkansas’ 2019 football season could be defined early due to the way the schedule is layed out.
The Razorbacks, eager to erase a bad taste out of their mouths, will get the chance to do just that in late August and then September. Arkansas opens the 2019 season against Portland State on Aug. 31 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The Vikings are coming off a 4-7 season that saw them finish ninth in the Big Sky Conference. They finished the 2018 season on a three-game losing skid. This should be a good game for Arkansas to get warmed up for some much tougher, but winnable, games in September.
Arkansas will then travel to Ole Miss for a Sept. 7 SEC opener in Oxford. The Razorbacks lost to Ole Miss 37-33 on Oct. 13 in Little Rock. It was a game Arkansas led big until quarterback Ty Storey and running backs Devwah Whaley and Rakeem Boyd had to exit because of injuries. At the time Storey left the Hogs hadn’t punted. Ole Miss rallied to outscore Arkansas 13-0 in the fourth quarter to escape with the victory. This will be a big test for Arkansas.
The Hogs then return home to host Colorado State on Sept. 14. The Razorbacks also saw a big lead disappear against the Rams In Fort Collins on Sept. 8. Arkansas led 27-9 in the third quarter, but then saw Colorado State score the final 25 points to take a 34-27 victory. That started a spiral that saw the Hogs not win again until Tulsa on Oct. 20. The Rams finished 3-9 and was fifth in the Mountain West. They ended the season by losing their final five games. This is a must win for Arkansas.
San Jose State will then come to Razorback Stadium on Sept. 21. One of Colorado State’s wins in 2018 was over San Jose State 42-30 on Oct. 6. The Spartans were 1-11 and sixth in the Mountain West last fall. Their only win was 50-37 over UNLV on Oct. 27. That got them to 1-7 on the season then they lost their next four. So this too is a game that Arkansas must win.
The Hogs will close out September when they go to AT&T Stadium in Arlington to take on Texas A&M. The Aggies finished the season 9-4 and second in the SEC West in Jimbo Fisher’s first year in College Station. Arkansas hasn’t won in this series since 2011 when Bobby Petrino was coaching the Hogs. The Hogs actually had a good showing in this game last year. They fell 24-17, but had the ball and was driving with a chance to tie or win the game. The Aggies jumped on them early and led 14-0 after the first quarter, but the Hogs showed a lot of fight and character and tried to rally for the win. It was 17-10 after three quarters and then both teams added a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Razorbacks have an excellent chance at starting the season at least 4-1 and if they can do that the road to reaching a bowl game in 2019 could become a much clearer path. The Razorbacks need to beat Ole Miss and win their non-conference games. Then take their chances against the Aggies.