Arkansas’ schedule ranked sixth toughest in FBS by ESPN
The most impressive thing about Sam Pittman’s tenure at Arkansas over his three seasons has been his ability to keep the Razorbacks always in position to win.
No matter whether it’s been Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, whoever. Arkansas has either beaten or had a more-than-decent shot at beating every team they’ve played at some point over those three years. And that’s playing in the ridiculously difficult SEC.
So it’s no surprise heading into 2023 that Arkansas’ schedule is expected to be bonkers again. In fact, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Arkansas’ schedule is the sixth toughest in the nation.
Three of the teams with more difficult slates play in the SEC in Ole Miss (toughest), Florida (third) and Auburn (fifth). Minnesota (second) and Maryland (fourth) have the toughest roads to hoe in the Big Ten.
Let’s take another look at just how the Hogs find themselves in such company this fall.
Western Carolina - September 2
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS – OCTOBER 23: Dominique Johnson #20 of the Arkansas Razorbacks runs the ball in the first half of a game against the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions at War Memorial Stadium on October 23, 2021 in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
The Catamounts have zero to do with the difficulty. In fact, Arkansas’ playing of an FCS team is probably keeping the Razorbacks from ranking higher, er, more difficult.
Kent State - September 9
Nov 5, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) passes in the second quarter against the Liberty Flames at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Kent State is OK. For a Mid-American Conference team. But, again, the Golden Flashes are dragging the strength-of-schedule down. Note: that isn’t a bad thing when you play in the SEC. Rack up those wins.
Brigham Young - September 16
PROVO UT- OCTOBER 15: Micah Harper #1 of the Brigham Young Cougars tackled Rashod Dubinion #6 of the Arkansas Razorbacks during the first half of their game October 15, 2022 LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images)
Last year’s game in Provo was quite the barn-burner. And BYU is the sort of nonconference game that looks good on a resume if it’s a victory.
LSU - September 23
Nov 12, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks mascots pose with LSU Tigers cheerleaders prior to the game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Fun fact: This is the earliest date the two schools will have ever played. In fact the last time they met in October, even, was in the 1930s. Everything else was late fall. In Baton Rouge, this game is the first on the slate that cranks up that strength-of-schedule.
Texas A&M - September 30
Sep 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Hudson Clark (17) defends against a pass to Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Evan Stewart (1) during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Texas A&M is almost nowhere to be found int he too-early rankings heading into the fall. But the Aggies are never bad, seemingly, and with the game at a neutral site, it adds to the difficulty.
Ole Miss - October 7
Nov 19, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) is tackled by Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Bumper Pool (10) in the first quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Ole Miss, on the hand, is highly rated by those offseason rankings. The Rebels are expected to contend for the Group of Six and with the game in Oxford, ‘tough’ is an easy adjective to use.
Alabama - October 14
Oct 1, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Myles Slusher (3) intercepts a pass intended for Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Treason Holden (11) as Razorbacks defensive back Khari Johnson (19) celebrates in the first quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
It’s Alabama under Nick Saban. It’s on the road. Of course it’s a major player in that sixth ranking. It’s also the fourth straight game for Arkansas away from Fayetteville. Yowza.
Mississippi State - October 21
Oct 8, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Dwight McGlothern (3) breaks up a pass intended for Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver Lideatrick Griffin (5) during a play that would result in a pass interference penalty against Arkansas in the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Arkansas will be glad to be at home again. Mississippi State is tough team to predict, but like Texas A&M, the Bulldogs aren’t expected to bad, even if they aren’t powerhouses.
Florida - November 4
Florida Gators offensive lineman Josh Braun (72) sings after the game against the Eastern Washington Eagles at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Sunday, October 2, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]
Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs Eastern Washington Eagles
The last time Arkansas played at Florida, the Gators dropped 63 points. That was in 2020. There have been worse years to play in Gainesville, at least.
Auburn - November 11
Oct 29, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett (18) dives for Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Ketron Jackson Jr. (2) during the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn and Arkansas always seem to play tough games. It’s in Fayetteville in the fall, but it’s also another game that adds to the sting of the schedule.
Florida International - November 18
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI – NOVEMBER 25: Head coach Sam Pittman of the Arkansas Razorbacks stand with his team before taking to the field for a game against the Missouri Tigers in the first half at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Florida International in Fayetteville in late November. If Arkansas isn’t bowl-eligible by this point, this game should help the Hogs get there.
Missouri - November 25
Nov 25, 2022; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Brady Cook (12) is tackled by Arkansas Razorbacks defensive lineman Jordan Domineck (14) during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Mizzou at home to end the season. Arkansas has had trouble with the Tigers since they joined the SEC. Yep. It’s tough, all right.