Arkansas Betting Odds Preview
Everybody knew there would be a learning curve for the Razorbacks as new head coach Bret Bielema implemented his Wisconsin-style systems last year, but what went down at times bordered on the ridiculous. Arkansas blew leads, got blown out, turned the ball over too much, got gouged on defense, and consequently finished with its worst record in over 60 years, and went winless in SEC play for the first time ever.
But there was some progress as the season progressed, and really, how much can you blame Bielema, after he inherited just 10 starters from a team that went 4-8 in 2012? This year the Hogs should be better, but how much will it show up in the W/L columns?
Arkansas actually started 3-0 last year, and led Rutgers in Game 4 by 17 points. But the Hogs coughed up that lead and lost, and then proceeded to lose eight more in a row, several in blowout fashion. At the end, though, the Razorbacks had a chance to beat Mississippi State, and led LSU at Death Valley into the final two minutes, but let both games slip away.
So Arkansas finished 3-9 SU, 4-8 ATS, and 0-8 SU, 3-5 ATS in SEC play.
This year the Hogs return 14 starters, four more than last year. Seven are back on offense, led by junior QB Brandon Allen, two guys who rushed for at least 900 yards last year in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, and three along what could be one of the best offensive lines in the country. And seven starters return on defense, consisting of two up front, two linebackers and three in the secondary.
Arkansas averaged just 21 points per game last year, while giving up 31 per game. Both those figures should improve this season.
Phil Steele ranks this year's Arkansas schedule as the third-toughest in the nation. The Hogs play eight SEC games against teams that went bowling last year. They lead off with a road game at Auburn, later play at Texas Tech, Mississippi State and Missouri, battle Texas A&M in Arlington and host Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss.
Realistically, while Arkansas should be an improved outfit this year, there might only be five or six winnable games on that slate. Just becoming bowl-eligible would be considered a success.
SEC Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
South Carolina 5/1
Ole Miss 14/1
Texas A&M 25/1
Mississippi State 40/1
After last year's disastrous 4-8 campaign the Arkansas Razorbacks are now operating under their third different head coach in the last three seasons. Out is John L. Smith, who replaced the disgraced Bobby Petrino, and in is Bret Bielema, who brings his smash-mouth Big Ten-style running game to Fayetteville. But can that approach be successful in the speed-oriented SEC?
Arkansas had gone 21-5 its last two seasons under Petrino, and looked like it could continue along those lines for the foreseeable future. Then Petrino got involved in some off-field shenanigans and lost his job. The Hogs were still supposed to be pretty good last year under Smith, with enough returning talent to at least reach a bowl. Instead, Arkansas fell flat on its collective face, losing a game at home to Louisiana-Monroe and later getting blown out by Alabama, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State. The 4-8 mark was the worst since 2005, and the only two conference victories came against Auburn and Kentucky, who combined to go 0-16 in SEC play.
The Razorbacks also went a dismal 2-9 ATS last year, as both the oddsmakers and bettors were slow to pick up on just how bad they were. A -19 turnover ratio certainly didn't help, either. As for this year Bielema takes over a team that must replace last year's leading rusher, passer, receiver, and three starters along the offensive line, but eight starters return on defense, including three along the front line and the entire secondary. However, any progress Arkansas might make this year, in terms of quality of play, might be muted by a tough schedule that calls for road games at Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU, and home dates with Texas A&M and South Carolina. In all the Hogs have to play six of the top seven contenders in the SEC, missing only Georgia.
SEC Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of July 29
South Carolina +500
Texas A&M +850
Mississippi State +10000