Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
2014 Arkansas Forecast:
Hogs' 7-6 season gets a little hairy at end
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema stands on the field prior to a Nov. 29, 2013 game against LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Three consecutive correct bowl destinations predicted in this space -- including the exact call of the 2011 Sugar Bowl between the Razorbacks and Ohio State -- seem like a faded memory following back-to-back losing records and 17 losses in two seasons for Arkansas.
We had Arkansas projected to make bowls each of the past two seasons.
The Razorbacks fell off with head coaching turmoil and changes in 2012 and 2013, and the "forecaster" went along with them, going 8-4 on picking results last year. We predicted 7-5 and a Liberty Bowl victory, but we missed by four losses, going wrong on the Rutgers, Florida, Auburn and Mississippi State games.
"In the world of college football, there have been many better seasons of predicting game scores," Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema told the forecaster.
Perhaps the picks will regain steam this fall as the Razorbacks continue rebuilding in the most difficult division of the nation's toughest conference in the country.
First, our yearly reminder: The outcome of the games in the predictions is meant to reflect reality. The scores, scenarios and "quotes" are simply for fun.
Auburn 30, Arkansas 27
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall's punishment for a marijuana citation turns into a one-series suspension after Arkansas cornerback Carroll Washington intercepts Jeremy Johnson's first pass and the Razorbacks cash in with Jonathan Williams' 15-yard touchdown catch for an early lead.
Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Auburn's Gus Malzahn ham it up during the pregame, shaking hands, smiling and chatting for nearly three minutes at midfield before Bielema re-enacts Auburn's "fake injury" moment from last year's game. An Auburn functionary throws a raw meat enticement toward the Arkansas sideline during the War Eagle's descent, but the eagle changes course and picks off the morsel in mid-air and hightails it out of Jordan-Hare.
Marshall rallies the Tigers with a rushing touchdown and two passing scores.
Arkansas 42, Nicholls State 6
FAYETTEVILLE -- Jonathan Williams runs for 128 yards, Alex Collins adds 113 yards and Korliss Marshall scores twice as the Razorbacks rout the FCS-level Colonels. Brandon Allen passes for 301 yards and throws touchdown passes to Demetrius Wilson, Keon Hatcher and Hunter Henry as Arkansas racks up 619 yards total offense.
Nicholls State Coach Charlie Stubbs has flashbacks to his days as Alabama's offensive coordinator late in the game and has his offense take a knee inside the 10 in the closing moments so the score will perfectly match the Hogs' victory over the Crimson Tide in the 1998 game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Arkansas 33, Texas Tech 32
LUBBOCK, Texas -- John Henson kicks a 44-yard field goal on the final play to extend Arkansas' historical dominance over Texas Tech. The winning kick is set up on Jared Cornelius' catch and run out of bounds with one second left following a 17-yard gain.
The first half is a disaster for the Red Raiders, who suffer four interceptions -- by Tevin Mitchel, Alan Turner, Martrell Spaight and Jared Collins -- while running their no huddle at breakneck pace, averaging a snap every 9.5 seconds.
Texas Tech slows things in the second half and gets back into contention in the first game between the former Southwest Conference rivals since 1991.
Drew Morgan, Jeremy Sprinkle and AJ Derby catch touchdown passes for Arkansas, and Mitchel returns his interception for a score.
The Razorbacks' walk-through at Jones AT&T Stadium goes a little haywire the night before the game as a group of receivers -- all wearing three-day beards -- photo-bomb a Kliff Kingsbury photo shoot. Kingsbury is posing for GQ magazine on the sideline and reading aloud the break-up letter he received from an admiring Arkansas fan when the photo-bomb hits.
Arkansas 24, Northern Illinois 16
FAYETTEVILLE -- Brandon Allen runs a broken bootleg pass 45 yards for a touchdown to highlight the Hogs' nonconference victory.
Alex Collins pounds for 158 rushing yards and Arkansas manages 302 yards on the ground while struggling to score in the red zone. Trey Flowers returns a fumble deep into Huskie territory to set up a Jonathan Williams touchdown, and Brooks Ellis and Rohan Gaines each account for a takeaway for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas 30, Texas A&M 24
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Arkansas breaks its nine-game SEC losing streak on the game's final play, as kickoff return man Korliss Marshall takes the third lateral of the play, breaks two tackles and goes 57 yards with what started as a squib kick.
Jubilant Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema shows off his 30-pound weight loss by completing a 35-inch vertical jump after Marshall scores and doing a forehead bump with receivers coach Michael Smith
"The world of college football has been turned on its eyebrows today," Bielema says.
Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin serves a half-game suspension for conduct unbecoming a coach after erupting during the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday after being asked about Johnny Manziel's latest exploits with the Browns.
Cody Hollister catches two touchdown passes and Texas native Jonathan Williams runs for 125 yards and a score for Arkansas.
The Aggies think they have a game-day edge after consulting with former offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury for a detailed report on the Hogs, but the move backfires when the A&M linemen, who have grown two-day beards in tribute to Kingsbury, all scratch their chinstraps simultaneously, resulting in a critical illegal procedure penalty from the Arkansas 2 that leads to a missed field goal.
Alabama 38, Arkansas 13
FAYETTEVILLE -- The Crimson Tide's plane has to make an emergency landing in Little Rock -- too much weight due to the Nick Saban statue stowed on board -- on the eve of the game. Instead of unloading the statue, Saban dispatches 15 special teams players and the second-team defense to drive the remaining distance.
During the lengthy delay at Clinton National, Saban insists on getting in a walk-through, and after a few phone calls a team of prep all-stars from central Arkansas is assembled to scrimmage the Crimson Tide. The all-stars incense the Alabama coach by scoring on the second play from scrimmage.
Arkansas repeats the feat when Korliss Marshall makes the corner on a pitch play and goes 80 yards to stake the Hogs to an early lead.
Saban's halftime chat with the sideline reporter, with the score tied 10-10, gets strange.
"Relative to our performance -- a'ight -- in the first half, I'm just telling you -- OK -- that in retrospect, I probably should not have sent all those guys up to Fayetteville in vans last night," Saban says.
Arkansas' second-half highlight comes on Jojo Robinson's 45-yard catch-and-run touchdown during which two Tide defenders collide while trying to catch the slithery freshman. Saban is caught mumbling "How did we not get that guy?" after the play.
Georgia 33, Arkansas 23
Georgia plays the first half with its starters only because the reserves are forced to drive down from Fayetteville after a booking problem sent them to the wrong game day location.
Coach Mark Richt shrugs off the mistake in his halftime interview, saying of the director of football operations who made the goof, "Everybody deserves a second chance."
Arkansas takes the lead when Georgia receiver Chris Conley, a Star Wars devotee who directed a half-hour tribute movie to the sci-fi classic, tries to use "the force" to recover his fumble, which is scooped by cornerback Will Hines and returned for a touchdown.
Richt has flashbacks to Greg Childs's 2009 and 2010 games against his Bulldogs when Arkansas freshman Kendrick Edwards lays out horizontal to haul in a 30-yard touchdown pass, then jukes a defender after an out route and scores on the final play of the half.
Arkansas 42, Ala.-Birmingham 0
FAYETTEVILLE -- The game is fondly dubbed "Doubleteam Dynamite" when cameras zoom in on Arkansas' Dan Skipper and Luke Charpentier driving an unfortunate lineman 8 yards deep into the end zone on Jonathan Williams' 5-yard touchdown run in the first half. Amazingly, the scene is repeated in the second half on Kody Walker's 6-yard score when Brey Cook and Denver Kirkland do the same on the other side of the line.
The Blazers are caught mumbling after the game about how a game plan faxed early that week from a "Jarrick McGlee" in Louisville, Ky., didn't at all match up with what the Razorbacks ran.
Korliss Marshall, Alex Voelzke and Keon Hatcher catch touchdown passes, and Braylon Mitchell brings back an interception for the Razorbacks.
#NeverYield and follow @wholehogsports on Twitter now for breaking news and score updates.
Mississippi State 27, Arkansas 21
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Arkansas is denied its first shot at gaining bowl eligibility as Dak Prescott runs and passes for three touchdowns to lead Mississippi State.
Bulldogs fans insist on ringing cowbells throughout the first half, despite repeated warnings and enforced penalties. SEC commissioner Mike Slive is alerted of the escalating situation in a guest box at the Tennessee-South Carolina game, and the SEC Network sends him via its Tractor Beam to eastern Mississippi, where he finally applies a lifetime ban on the artificial noise makers.
D.J. Dean scores on an 80-yard punt return, the first special teams score for Arkansas since Joe Adams in the 2012 Cotton Bowl.
LSU 30, Arkansas 20
FAYETTEVILLE -- The Tigers extend their winning streak in the series to four games, but only after LSU Coach Les Miles is helped to the locker room in the third quarter complaining of stomach problems.
The night before the game, Miles takes receipt of a present at the team hotel consisting of a half-pound of pure Fayetteville Tifway Bermuda and an "Ar-Kan-Saw" pronunciation guide.
LSU rallies from a 17-10 halftime deficit after Miles tells a sideline reporter: "I repeat, I like my team in this and every game."
Arkansas 29, Ole Miss 24
FAYETTEVILLE -- The most bizarre finish in NCAA football history clinches a bowl berth for the Razorbacks, who benefit from getting an extra untimed offensive play after the game should have concluded.
The extra play comes about after Alex Collins is tripped up on the Rebels' 10-yard line on the would-be final play, but only because he's had to dodge an SEC Network cameraman, who has rushed onto the field to start postgame coverage with the play unfolding. Brandon Allen feathers a 10-yard seam route into Hunter Henry for the clinching touchdown.
Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze argues to no avail. SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw is beamed into Fayetteville by the SEC Network to confirm the extra-play decision.
Missouri 20, Arkansas 13
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri wins the initial Battle for the Bootheel after a weird series of twists and turns.
Sam Irwin-Hill opens the scoring by running a fake punt 60 yards for an Arkansas touchdown. The Tigers retaliate by scoring on a fake field goal.
Halftime is delayed for 20 minutes to repair the sod after reporters and cameramen stampede the field when they hear former Tiger Michael Sam will he honored at midfield. It turns out to be a false alarm.
Arkansas 39, Louisville 38
SHREVEPORT -- Jonathan Williams plows behind left tackle Brey Cook for a 3-yard touchdown on the final play of the Duck Commander Independence Bowl to pull Arkansas within a point. Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema chooses to go for the victory instead of the tie, and his gamble pays off as Kody Walker blows open a hole for Brandon Allen on an impromptu quarterback draw.
Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino falls out red-faced after the game-winning two-point conversion, screaming "I taught them everything they know" as he hits the turf.
Bielema is inspired by the Robertson boys, the stars of the hit television series Duck Dynasty. He grows his chin hair for a month and attends several pregame festivities sporting his bushy beard with the Duck Commander crew.
Sports on 08/24/2014