Summertime optimism for a ‘good’ Razorback football season

War Memorial Stadium (UA Athletics)

It’s 64 days until Sam Pittman’s Arkansas Razorbacks kick off the season with a Thursday-night contest against UA-Pine Bluff at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Sixty-four is a meaningful number in Hog history, of course, because the 1964 season is one of two undefeated seasons enjoyed by the Razorbacks and their fans. Nineteen-sixty-four was the year that Arkansas won the national title as signified by the Grantland Rice Trophy and the college football Writers Association after defeating Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.

The Associated Press named Alabama its national champion before the bowls were played. The Crimson Tide lost to the Texas squad that the Razorbacks nipped, 15-14, in Austin on Oct. 17.

The next year the A.P. began naming its national champion after the bowls. Frank Broyles’ Hogs went undefeated again during the regular season of 1965, but lost to LSU in the Cotton Bowl.

Even if Arkansas had beaten the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl, it’s likely A.P. voters would have picked undefeated Alabama over the Hogs anyway. Alabama has been the A.P.’s No. 1 squad for the bulk of the ‘65 season.

Arkansas’ other undefeated season was back in 1909 for Coach Hugo Bezdek, who said his squad played like a fighting band of Razorback pigs. Thus the Razorback mascot was born. Arkansas had been the Cardinal until the mascot was changed to Razorbacks in 1910.

None of that has anything to do with Arkansas’ upcoming season, but it’s nice to take a stroll through history every now and then.

If the Razorbacks’ opening game seems more like an exhibition-type of game to you, I totally understand the feeling. I really wonder what the attendance will be?

It will take effort for Razorbackers to get off work in time to make a 6:30 p.m. kickoff on Thursday night in the state capital.

If the Razorbacks were playing an SEC game, a respected Power Five opponent, or even Arkansas State, many would be excited about the opener. With all due respect, UAPB doesn’t move the needle.

There was a time —50 years or so ago — that any and every Razorback game — no matter whom the opponent was — moved the needle, but that was well before every game was televised.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2024 football schedule

Countdown to Kickoff: 64 Days

Aug. 29 – Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Little Rock
Sept. 7 – at Oklahoma State
Sept. 14 – Alabama-Birmingham
Sept. 21 – at Auburn
Sept. 28 – Texas A&M at Arlington
Oct. 5 – Tennessee
Oct. 12 – Open Date
Oct. 19 – LSU
Oct. 26 – at Mississippi State
Nov. 2 – Ole Miss
Nov. 9 – Open Date
Nov. 16 – Texas
Nov. 23 – Louisiana Tech
Nov. 30 – at Missouri

While there is a general anticipation for the Hogs’ first game, I’m not sure how fired up Razorback fans will be for that first game, given the general expectations for this season and the opponent.

If you take stock in what’s written in the summer football preview magazines, many if not most expect this to be another underwhelming season for the Razorbacks that will likely result in a regime change at some point during the season.

If you want to believe that, the outlook looks pretty bleak.

I personally choose not to.

I think head coach Sam Pittman and his staff will rally the Razorbacks to have a respectable season. By respectable, I mean six to eight victories.

When I look at Arkansas’ schedule, it includes:

Three games the Hogs should win — UAPB, Alabama-Birmingham, and Louisiana Tech. Two games the Hogs shouldn’t win — at Oklahoma State and Texas. And seven toss-up games — at Auburn, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU, at Mississippi State, Ole Miss and at Missouri.

So the big question for me is will the Razorbacks win three, four or five of those seven toss-ups? At this early point, I’m not entertaining the possibility of them losing more than four of the seven.

Three of the toss-up games are at home, one at a neutral site, and three are on the road. That’s not a terrible breakdown.

The three home games are against Tennessee, LSU, and Ole Miss, which are generally considered to be the most talented teams among the seven. That could work to or against the Hogs’ favor. Right now, I choose to see it as a positive.

I realize that I’m looking at the schedule through Razorback red-colored glasses, but I’m not going to buy into the doom-and-gloom scenario that so many already have.

If you are truly a dyed-in-the-wool Razorback fan, how can you throw in the towel before the Fourth of July?