The Outback Bowl appearance is a major step forward for the program, which has not played in a bowl game since 2016. The next four years were not as kind, as the Razorbacks became an SEC doormat with just 11 total wins from 2017-2020. Arkansas went through five head coaches (including interims) in that span, but have seemed to find some stability with the hire of Sam Pittman prior to the 2020 season.
There wasn’t much in the way of expectations for the Razorbacks heading into 2021, which led to them becoming one of the biggest stories of the early season. Arkansas raced off to a 4-0 start that included upset victories against #15 Texas and #9 Texas A&M. They would rise to #8 in the rankings before crashing back down to earth with a 37-0 loss to #2 Georgia. This would lead to a three-game skid, losing 52-51 to Ole Miss the following week in one of the most entertaining games of the season, then suffering a 38-21 loss to Auburn thanks to a late collapse.
Arkansas was able to steady the ship from there, finishing the regular season with a 4-1 stretch and the only loss being a 42-35 setback to Alabama where they took the Tide down to the wire.
Sam Pittman’s caching career is in its fifth decade after starting as a graduate assistant at Pittsburg State in 1983, where he previously played defensive end. Outside of three years at the high school level, Pittman’s coaching career has been completely at the collegiate level. He has mostly served as an offensive line coach, making stops at Oklahoma, Kansas, North Carolina and Northern Illinois among others. His last stop prior to taking the head job at Arkansas was as offensive line coach for Georgia from 2016-2019, also serving as associate head coach in ‘19. The Arkansas job is his first head coaching position at the collegiate level.
The Razorbacks completely controlled this game from start to finish, playing lights out defense that made the nation take notice. With Texas A&M going on to upset Alabama later in the season, Arkansas is even better than the Tide according to the transitive property.
Arkansas did not lose to a team with a losing record in 2021, but clearly did not play to their potential in a loss to Auburn that slipped away in the fourth quarter. In fairness to the Hogs, this was prior to Bo Nix’s injury when the Tigers were on a hot streak and a far cry from the team that finished a measly 6-6.
Players to Watch
WR Treylon Burks
Burks is a special talent, with a 6-3, 225 lb. frame and speed to burn. He’s had 100-plus yard receiving days in six of 12 games this season, including 179 yards and two scores against Alabama. He has 66 catches on the season - outpacing the Razorback’s second-leading receiver by 45 catches. Burks has 1,216 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns on the season.
LB Bumper Pool
Before you ask - yes, Bumper is his actual name after legally changing it when he was 16. He’s also a damn fine linebacker, accumulating 120 tackles with 7.5 TFLs this fall.
Check out the odds for all of the upcoming bowl games, as well as others from across the country on a busy Saturday. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.