The Arkansas Razorbacks football team is coming off one of their best seasons of the 21st century: nine wins, their most since 2011 and a victory in the Outback Bowl. Yes sir, things are really starting to look up for the Razorbacks. Even better, most of their key players are returning for the 2022 season. K.J. Jefferson will be back. Four of the team’s starters on the offensive line will suit up again in 2022.
Running back Trelon Smith transferred out, but it was evident that the Razorbacks were opting for more of a committee approach to their backfield with Raheim Sanders and Dominique Johnson picking up more carries as the season progressed. Smith can be replaced. Yes, Treylon Burks is a major loss, but hopefully someone else can step up in the passing game. They had an impressive haul of receivers this year though, including former No. 1 receiver prospect Jadon Haselwood. Perhaps he could fill that role Burks left.
There were some losses on defense, but nothing that Arkansas can’t overcome. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arkansas finished with less than five wins next year.
Despite all the talent they’re bringing to the table next year, Arkansas’ 2022 schedule is an absolute gauntlet with zero downtime, zero gimme games, and zero room for error. I know the SEC is always tough, but by golly, their other games aren’t any easier.
The team opens the season with Cincinnati. That’s tough as is. That’s followed by home contests against South Carolina and Missouri State. Arkansas should get at least one win during that stretch. Then comes the absolute gauntlet. Texas A&M, Alabama, at Mississippi State, at BYU, at Auburn, Liberty, LSU, Ole Miss, and Missouri to close things out. MY GOODNESS! Aside from Missouri, those are all games that the Razorbacks could lose. Liberty is iffy without Malik Willis, but why on Earth would any school schedule all these high-profile non-conference games in one season, especially when you’re already going to play the powerhouse SEC all year as well? If you’re playing Bama, LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn in the same season, I think your strength of schedule will be just fine without scheduling two teams that finished the season in the AP top-20. Give your team a breather every once in a while.
The hardest part of this schedule is going to be that four-week stretch in the middle of the season where Arkansas gets Alabama at home followed by three straight road games. At least the team gets their bye week before facing Auburn, the final game of that stretch, but that’s the easiest one! If anything, you’d want the break before you take on Bama or LSU, but no. Heaven forbid absolutely anything go Arkansas’ way with their schedule.
With all the promise Arkansas displayed last year, and the talent coming in, there’s a chance this team blows expectations out of the water and goes 10-2 or 9-3. However, I think it’s much more likely that Arkansas succumbs to their schedule in the middle of the season and end up around .500, and I don’t think it’s absurd to predict the Razorbacks going 4-8 or even 3-9. They’re better than that. They shouldn’t, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
The insane variance between the Razorbacks ceiling and floor is every bettors’ worst nightmare, but for my money, if I had to bet on Arkansas’ win total for 2022, I’m taking under 7.5 every day of the week.