Sched­ule just got a lot tougher for Ra­zor­backs

The Saline Courier Weekend - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen

FAYET­TEVILLE Arkansas’ chances of im­prov­ing its re­cently abysmal SEC foot­ball for­tunes took a dou­ble hit Fri­day.

For the SEC West Ra­zor­backs two ad­di­tional games against SEC East op­po­nents in the now 10-game ALL-SEC sched­ule, the Ra­zor­backs Fri­day were as­signed this sea­son to host the Ge­or­gia Bulldogs in Fayet­teville and visit the Florida Ga­tors at the “Swamp” in Gainesvill­e, Florida.

In­her­it­ing a Ra­zor­backs team that un­der the pre­ced­ing Chad Mor­ris regime went 2-10, 2-10 over­all and 0-8, 0-8 in the SEC the last two sea­sons, new Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman in Ge­or­gia and Florida now faces last year’s top two teams from the SEC East. Ge­or­gia was 12-2 over­all, 7-1 in the SEC, and Florida, 11-2, 6-2.

In the just re­leased 2020 Coaches Pre­sea­son poll, Coach Kirby Smart’s Ge­or­gia Bulldogs, for whom Pittman coached the of­fen­sive line from 2016-2019, ranks No. 4 na­tion­ally while Coach Dan Mullen’s Ga­tors rank No. 8 in the Coaches Pre­sea­son poll.

The Ra­zor­backs, like all SEC teams elim­i­nat­ing their four non­con­fer­ence games and adding two SEC games to their orig­i­nal eight-game SEC sched­ule with the sea­son’s start de­layed to Sept. 26 be­cause of the coro­n­avirus COVID-19 pan­demic, al­ready had four Pre­sea­son Coaches top 20 teams on the sched­ule host­ing No. 3 Alabama and No. 5 LSU, the reign­ing na­tional and SEC cham­pion, and vis­it­ing No. 11 Auburn and No. 13 Texas A&M.

Arkansas’ road games against Mis­sis­sippi State and Mis­souri and home games against Ole Miss and Ten­nessee are its only games against op­po­nents un­ranked thus far in the Coaches poll.

Ten­nessee and Mis­sis­sippi State did re­ceive votes, though not enough to crack the Pre­sea­son Top 25.

Pittman, Arkansas’ of­fen­sive line coach from 2013-2015 dur­ing the Bret Bielema regime, put a brave spin in Fri­day’s press re­lease on fac­ing six Top 15 pre­sea­son teams, in­clud­ing four in the Top 10.

“We’re ex­cited to play this sched­ule,” Pittman said. “The SEC is the best and that’s where Arkansas be­longs, with the best. We’ve got an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity ahead of us as

a pro­gram. Our staff can’t wait to get on the field with our team and pre­pare to take on the tough­est sched­ule in the coun­try.”

Arkansas Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Hunter Yu­rachek also was quoted.

“We al­ready owned the na­tion’s strong­est 2020 foot­ball sched­ule and with these ad­di­tions to our Se­conly sched­ule, we now own the most chal­leng­ing sched­ule in the his­tory of col­lege foot­ball,” Yu­rachek said. “As Ra­zor­backs, we have never backed down from a chal­lenge; this year will be no dif­fer­ent.

Our fo­cus re­mains on the growth of our pro­gram and sup­port­ing Coach Sam Pittman and our foot­ball stu­dent-ath­letes as they em­brace this ex­traor­di­nary op­por­tu­nity.”

The dates and times when Arkansas will play these games re­main to be an­nounced.

Pittman in a Thursday Zoom press con­fer­ence was asked about the whatif the Ra­zor­backs learned Fri­day they would play the Ge­or­gia team whose O-line Pittman coached the last four years.

“Well, de­pends on where we played them,” Pittman said. “If we went to Ge­or­gia it would be nice to go back and see all the peo­ple there. They have an in­cred­i­ble fan base. If they came here and it was al­lowed they will be trav­el­ing in. I am gonna tell the Arkansas fans sell that thing out be­cause if not it will be loaded with Ge­or­gia fans. I have fond mem­o­ries of Ge­or­gia. They were good to me, the en­tire state, and of course Kirby Smart. If we played them a year ear­lier than what I thought we would look for­ward to play­ing them.”

Arkansas in the orig­i­nal SEC West vs. SEC East ro­ta­tion wasn’t sched­uled to play Ge­or­gia un­til 2021.

Go­ing to Florida ought to be in­trigu­ing for Ra­zor­backs quar­ter­back Feleipe Franks, a grad­u­ate trans­fer from the Uni­ver­sity of Florida and the ev­ery-game starter for the Ga­tors’ 10-3 2018 team and the starter for Florida’s first three games last year with his sea­son ter­mi­nated by a bro­ken an­kle in the third game.

Also, when the Ra­zor­backs play Mis­souri, the only SEC East team al­ways on their sched­ule, new Arkansas de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Barry Odom will be fac­ing his alma mater and team he head coached from 2016-2019.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.