Rick Fires is a reporter and columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Arkansas fans can expect at least three more wins this season
Arkansas coach Chad Morris watches his players Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, during practice at the university practice field in Fayetteville. Visit nwad.com/photos to see more photographs from the practice.
Nothing reveals the current state of Arkansas football more than the fact that even if the Razorbacks double their number of victories, they'll still fall two short of reaching .500 for the season.
They need one SEC win to surpass last year's league record of 0-8. But enough with the negativity (reality?).
I'll continue with my annual predictions column on the Hogs while acknowledging better days are ahead, especially with the young talent coach Chad Morris and his staff have assembled.
KEY GAME: Mississippi
An SEC road win in Game 2 will surely prompt more Arkansas fans to get off the couch and actually attend a game, especially with beer and wine now available.
They'll need it, too, if the Hogs lose again to Colorado State in Game 3.
BEST WIN: Mississippi State
A home win over Mississippi State in November fuels speculation Arkansas will qualify for a bowl game this season. But hope dies after losses to LSU and Missouri.
WORST LOSS: Auburn
There is a love-hate relationship among Razorback fans toward Gus Malzahn, the former high school coach from Arkansas. I like Gus and wrote several weeks before Jeff Long summoned Bret Bielema from Wisconsin that Malzahn should get the job.
A certain segment of Arkansas fans hate losing to Malzahn and they'll be miserable again in Week 7 when Malzahn moves to 6-1 as a head coach against the Razorbacks.
TOP NEWCOMER: Treylon Burks
Hope floats for Arkansas fans with the incoming freshmen, including Burks, Hudson Henry, and Trey Knox, who shined in spring drills with the Razorbacks.
I watched Burks and Hudson Henry play in high school and both were spectacular. The tight end position is crowded, so Burks and Knox will have more of an opportunity to have an impact as freshmen.
Burks wouldn't be the first receiver from Warren to pile up big numbers for the Razorbacks.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Kamren Curl
There are plenty of contenders in this category from a team that lost 10 of the 12 games it played last season.
I'm still waiting on running back Chase Hayden, who flashed potential as a freshman. But Arkansas won't be much better until its defense, especially in the secondary, improves dramatically.
Arkansas fans hope to see more of the front of the defenders' jerseys instead of their backs. Curl could emerge in the secondary like Santos Ramirez did last season.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Rakeem Boyd
I jumped out of my recliner last year while watching No. 5 in the Arkansas backfield take off on a 36-yard burst in Game 2 versus Colorado State.
My mind flashed back to Darren McFadden when times were good for the Razorbacks. Boyd may not approach the level of McFadden, but he's a very good SEC running back with NFL potential.
FINAL RECORD: 5-7, no bowl
If you know that former St. Louis Cardinals quarterback Neil Lomax played at Portland State, you already know too much about the Vikings, who were 0-11 in 2017 and 4-7 last season. (Opponents like these are why people like me call for Arkansas to play Arkansas State).
Going 4-0 in nonconference play and an SEC win over Mississippi State would still leave Arkansas short of bowl eligibility. A win over Missouri in Little Rock would do it, but that's wishful thinking after the Hogs were embarrassed 38-0 last year by the Tigers.
Five wins are all I see for the Razorbacks, which is three more wins than last year. But the players and coaches don't care at all what folks who make predictions think.
So, prove us wrong, guys. I welcome it.
Sports on 08/18/2019
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