Andrew Hutchinson has been a multimedia reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2014.
Opener adds to off-season excitement
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen (10) drops back in the first half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
FAYETTEVILLE Assuming Auburn is ranked in the preseason polls, Arkansas’ season opener against the Tigers will be its ninth against a ranked opponent.
Most recently, Arkansas opened the 2006 season against No. 6 USC, losing at home 50-14.
“To put ourselves in that environment, to put us in a world where we are going to at least be able to be on a field and see where we stand, I think we couldn’t ask for anything better,” head coach Bret Bielema said on the Paul Finebaum Show last month.
Auburn is the reigning SEC Champion and lost to Florida State in last year’s BCS National Championship Game. The Tigers are projected to be a top 10 team in the preseason.
Arkansas, on the other hand, is coming off a 3-9 season and its first winless conference record since 1942, when the Razorbacks went 0-6 in the Southwest Conference.
Many of the players see the game at Auburn as a benchmark.
“Those guys went as far as the National Championship, so just to have them Opening Day will show us how far we came,” senior defensive end Trey Flowers said. “To have teams like that to open up, we’re just going to embrace that fact and try to get after them.”
Unlike the previous seven seasons, when the Razorbacks have opened the season against non-BCS or FCS schools, Arkansas will be opening against a top-level opponent, which has given the team motivation throughout the spring and summer.
“A lot of people are focused in and they’re wanting to get better,” junior quarterback Brandon Allen said. “They’re wanting to start the season off right.”
The game at Auburn will mark the first time Arkansas has played a conference opponent to start the season since 1980, when the Razorbacks fell to Southwest Conference foe Texas 23-17.
The trip to Auburn will also be the first time Arkansas opened its season on the road since 1999, when the Razorbacks beat SMU 26-0 in Dallas.