Analyzing Arkansas' 7-year ache

By: Harry King
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2018
Arkansas defensive linemen Briston Guidry and Armon Watts sack Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur during a game Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas defensive linemen Briston Guidry and Armon Watts sack Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur during a game Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Fayetteville.

LITTLE ROCK — Describing Arkansas’ football program since Sept. 1, 2012, mired in mediocrity is too kind and gentle. Horrendous is more apropos.

Barring an in-season reversal unseen since Frank Broyles’ first year as Arkansas’ coach, the Razorbacks will have the worst record in the SEC for the past seven years and the numbers are mind-numbing.

The genesis of the research was a phone conversation with a long-time friend and former cohort shortly after Arkansas’s 14-point loss to Vanderbilt. He had read or heard that the Razorbacks’ 0-5 start in the SEC meant they were 13-40 in their last 53 conference games.

Really?

Turning to page 172 of the UA media guide, the calculation began with 2-6 in John L. Smith’s only season as head coach. During Bret Bielema’s five years, 5-3 in his third year was the only time did Arkansas better 3-5 in the league.

Tack on Chad Morris’s record in his first five conference games and 13-40 is accurate, with 13-43 likely to be the seven-year total. Other than the 2015 record, Arkansas has won 2, 0, 2, 3, 1 and 0 SEC games.

Before the season began, Arkansas’ six-year conference record was 13-35, one win better than Kentucky, which was 0-16 in 2012-13.

The Wildcats caught the Razorbacks when they beat Florida the second week of the season and passed them two weeks later when they defeated Mississippi State. Including last week’s loss to Georgia in an SEC East showdown, the Wildcats are 5-2 in the SEC this year and 13-10 the past two-plus years.

Only two SEC victories ahead of Arkansas when the 2018 season began, both Tennessee and Vanderbilt are 1-4 in the league, meaning both are 16-37 with three conference games remaining, including a head to head on the final weekend.

The Razorbacks would have to sweep LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri — a finish reminiscent of Broyles’ 4-0 November after a 0-6 start in 1958 — to get to 16 and have a chance to catch the Tennessee-Vanderbilt loser.

Driving home the point about Arkansas’ extended run of ineptitude, Ole Miss was sixth in the SEC West from 2012-2017 with nine more victories than Arkansas.

Here are the conference records:

SEC West

—Alabama (43-5) plus 6-0 this year. The Crimson Tide were never worse than 7-1 in any year.

—LSU (31-17) plus 4-2. The Tigers have been below 5-3 only once and that was 4-4 in 2014.

—Texas A&M (25-23) plus 3-3. The Aggies have been 4-4 four times with a bottom of 3-5 and a top of 6-2.

—Auburn (25-23) plus 3-3. A mishmash of a 0-8 and 2-6 plus 7-1 twice.

—Mississippi State (24-24) plus 2-3. The Bulldogs have been .500 three times, but only once better than that at 6-2.

—Ole Miss (22-26) plus 1-4. A best of 6-2, a worst of 2-6, and three times 3-5.

—Arkansas 13-35, plus 0-5.

SEC East

—Georgia (34-14) plus 6-1. Twice 7-1 and only one season as bad as 4-4.

—Florida (30-18) plus 4-3. Twice 7-1 and twice 3-5.

—South Carolina (24-24) plus 4-3. Twice 6-2, but 1-7 one year.

—Missouri (23-25) plus 1-4. Back-to-back 7-1s, sandwiched between 2-6 and 1-7.

—Tennessee (15-33) plus 1-4. Like Arkansas, a best of 5-3 with a 0-8 and 1-7.

—Vanderbilt (15-33) plus 1-4. Same as Tennessee.

—Kentucky (12-36) plus 5-2. Only four Ws the first four seasons.

For additional context on Arkansas’ abysmal 13 conference victories in six years, consider the SEC Ws accumulated by Arkansas in other six-year SEC stretches:

—19, one year under Joe Kines and five years under Danny Ford.

—26, Houston Nutt’s first six years.

—28, Houston Nutt’s last two years and Bobby Petrino’s four years.

Comparing the old Southwest Conference with the expanded SEC is the old apples and oranges thing, but both Lou Holtz and Ken Hatfield coached seven and six years, respectively, in the SWC where Holtz won 37 conference games and Hatfield won 36.

As for Morris and Arkansas, there is no place to go but up.

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.