FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas will host Auburn at 11 a.m. on Saturday as the Tigers come in mad and rested.
Auburn has only lost one game all season and that was in their last outing when they played at Florida. That gave Gus Malzahn two weeks to get ready for the Hogs.
Arkansas is coming off another close loss as Kentucky rallied for the win. Arkansas owns a three-game losing streak and hopes to break that on Saturday.
Here’s three thoughts about the Razorbacks and football program.
Improvement is There Even if Wins Aren’t
No one is happy with Arkansas being 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. But if one takes the emotion out of it then it’s easy to see improvement is there this year. Last year at this time Arkansas was 1-5. They had lost to North Texas 44-17, Auburn 34-3 and Alabama 65-31. They have no such one-sided losses this season. Of course that may not be the case after this Saturday and then the following one when the Hogs travel to Alabama. But all that aside Arkansas has been in each of the four games they have lost. They lost to Ole Miss 31-17, but had a touchdown called back on ineligible receiver downfield. The Rebels only led 10-3 at halftime. The other three losses have been much closer games. Arkansas fell behind San Jose State 24-3 at halftime before rallying to tie the game at 24. However, they couldn’t stop San Jose State on its last possession and had an inexcusable 31-24 loss. The Hogs came up just short on late drives against Texas A&M and Kentucky losing each of those games by four points. So while the season hasn’t gone as hoped and everyone is understandably upset the truth is there has been improvement this year. Not suggesting moral victories, but saying that while the wins haven’t been what they should have been or expected it would be wrong to not say it seems the program is improving some. My personal prediction was that Arkansas would be 4-2 entering this second half of the season. I thought they would win the two games they have won, beat San Jose State and then win at either Ole Miss or Kentucky. As it turns out Ole Miss is the only game that a win late in fourth quarter wasn’t possible. Once again, not suggesting moral victories or anything other than just stating the team has improved from last season.
Will Arkansas Win Another Game This Season?
I have a little different outlook on this than some. I think if Arkansas wins another game may all be determined on Saturday, Nov. 2, in Fayetteville. That is the day Arkansas plays host to Mississippi State. Arkansas will follow that up with a game against Western Kentucky on Nov. 9. My thought is that if Arkansas beats Mississippi State then they will also win the Western Kentucky game. Arkansas will likely be 2-6 heading into the Mississippi State game and loser of five straight. The Bulldogs will likely be 3-5 and loser of four straight. They are 3-3 and host LSU on Saturday and then at Texas A&M before playing the Razorbacks. They have lost two games in a row at this time. So Arkansas and Chad Morris should be in good shape to secure an SEC win when the Bulldogs come to Fayetteville, but then again it appeared they were in a great position heading into Lexington last weekend. If Arkansas loses to Mississippi State then who knows how they will play against Ty Storey and Western Kentucky. This isn’t the same Western Kentucky team that lost at home to UCA 35-28 to start the season. Storey didn’t play in that game. He has started the last three games and the Hilltoppers have won each of them. They have defeated UAB, Old Dominion and Army. But it appears to me that Arkansas’ game against Mississippi State is the key to what happens in both those outings.
Fans In Stands
More than just football depends on loud, vocal crowds at the football games in Fayetteville. Of course it’s a big boost to Morris and his assistants when they have six official visitors and numerous unofficial recruits on campus for the crowd to be impressive. But it goes much beyond that. Eric Musselman and his staff have two key basketball recruits on official visits this weekend. The atmosphere at the football game leaves an impression on the recruits for each sport. Mike Neighbors has several recruits coming in as well both official and unofficial visitors. So it’s important for Arkansas fans to show up to the games if at all possible. This isn’t a lecture from me. I don’t do that to fans who have to pay for tickets, gas, hotel, food, parking and much more to attend a game that I get in for free. It is just pointing out that a great crowd can make a big impact on all the programs from a recruiting standpoint. Maybe if you can’t go to the game then give your tickets to a family that might not otherwise get to go. When I was on a statewide radio show with Chuck Barrett and fans couldn’t go to the games they would send them to me and I would give them to families that were excited to go. It worked out for all involved. Basketball games at Bud Walton used to be a huge recruiting tool for the football team.