Arkansas is the second best team in the conference. Yes, 6-4 Arkansas. Florida fans can cry all they want, but as I believe and many other "experts" do as well, the Razorbacks would be the favorite to win a head-to-head matchup. No one wants to play them right now.
"When you come play Arkansas, I want you to know you're in a street fight." That statement is what Bret Bielema has modeled his team around. He's got to be given his fair share of praise for turning around a program that was in the dumps after the Petrino affair and the John L. Smith debacle. I have always been a huge fan of Bret Bielema even when he was winning Big Ten Championships at Wisconsin. He was hired to take over a downward sliding Arkansas team in December of 2012 and hopefully bring Arkansas back to national prominence.
He knew his task wouldn't be easy in the big, bad Southeastern Conference, and to make things worth, he would have to compete in the strongest division in college football in the SEC West. Bielema embraced the challenge and after a rough start in 2013, has turned the program around and transformed them into a physically dominant football team that knows how to win. The Razorbacks went 7-6 in 2014 and were playing some of the best football of any team in the SEC at the end of the year. They finished the last four games of the season 3-1 highlighted by dominant shut-out wins over LSU and Ole Miss as well as a blowout of old rival Texas in the Advocare Texas Bowl in Houston.
The Hogs entered 2015 with momentum of accomplishing bigger things but were disappointed as the Hogs were beaten by many thought were less talented teams in Toledo and Texas Tech. They lost a heartbreaker to #14 Texas A&M but bounced back the next week with a 24-20 win over Tennessee in Knoxville. From that point on the Razorbacks have gone 4-1 with wins over Auburn, Tennessee-Martin, #18 Ole Miss, and last week's 31-14 dismantling of Leonard Fournette and #9 LSU in Baton Rouge. The only blemish in that stretch was a two touchdown loss to Alabama in which the Hogs were competitive all game and doesn't look bad at all now compared to what the Tide have done to most opponents this year.
Arkansas under Bielema has seemed to struggle early but finish very strong. This is the most talented team Bielema has had. A big offseason hire was new offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who has made the Hogs more balanced and thrown in a dangerous passing attack. They are now the 3rd best passing team in the SEC and boast the #2 offense overall in the conference. The biggest reason for this increased production is Brandon Allen. Allen has improved exponentially as a quarterback and has changed from being basically a good game manager to being mentioned by some as the top QB in the conference. He has thrown for 2,617 yards on the year with 22 TDs and a 64.4% completion percentage.
The Razorbacks have legit guys at receiver this year and solid deep threats. Tight End Hunter Henry is one of the best at his position in college football and is the ultimate safety net to throw the ball to. He is up for postseason awards as well. Drew Morgan leads the Razorbacks in receiving with 639 yards so far this year and is surrounded by other pass-catching weapons in the forms of Dominique Reed, Jared Cornelius, and Jeremy Sprinkle. The Hogs finally have deep-threats and game-changers at the receiver position.
Arkansas running game took a big blow, as 2014's leading rusher Jonathan Williams went down with an injury that is forcing him to miss the 2015 regular season. Despite this setback, the Arkansas running attack appears to be just as strong as ever. Williams' talented partner Alex Collins was forced to step up and take the majority of the carries. He has performed marvelously. The junior running back from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is third in the SEC in the rushing category as he has rushed for 1,209 yards and 14 touchdowns with an average of 6.1 yards per touch. Kody Walker has been a solid number two as he has rushed for 254 yards of his own.
Whoever is in the backfield knows they have the luxury of being protected by one of the best and biggest overall offensive lines in football. They average 326 pounds across the line and are not only adept at creating holes for their backs but protecting the quarterback. They have given up one of the fewest sack totals in the SEC.
The defense hasn't been as strong statistically as they were last season but are improving as seen in last week's domination of #9 LSU. The Razorbacks held LSU star running back and Heisman contender Leonard Fournette to under a hundred yards and were very dominant overall. Arkansas has been solid against the run this year but has struggled defending the pass. However, like Arkansas seems to do, they are improving in every facet of the game as the season goes on. This unit is led by a playmaking linebacking duo of Dre Greenlaw and Brooks Ellis. Greenlaw leads the Razorbacks in tackles with 84 total while Ellis is second with 80 of his own.
Like I said, no one wants to play Arkansas right now. They have talent all over the field and are improving each and every week. I think the Hogs are good enough to beat any team in the conference right now besides Alabama and are a team to be wary of in college football. This team has been hurt by a slow start but are finishing strong. This is why I believe the Hogs are the second best team in the SEC right now. If Arkansas ever figures out how to start strong as well, look out college football world. You have something to fear indeed in the team from Fayetteville.