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2021 Arkansas college football preview: Expectations are raised under Sam Pittman

Arkansas had a promising Year 1 with their new head coach and with a full offseason working in Sam Pittman’s system, the Razorbacks have realistic aspirations of returning to a bowl game.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Arkansas Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

The Arkansas Razorbacks saw mixed results in Year 1 under head coach Sam Pittman in 2020. Arkansas was competitive and beat some of the middle-of-the-road teams in the SEC, which is a significant improvement, but lost to the best teams on the schedule.

A pandemic-impacted season makes it incredibly difficult to evaluate a program, and the Razorbacks should benefit from a much more normal offseason. Arkansas has much higher expectations as a program than they have in recent years, and a good season would result in their first bowl appearance since 2016.

2020 Season Review

  • 3-7 SEC (6th in West)
  • Never won or lost two games in a row in the first six weeks, lost each of the final four games

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 25
ESPN Returning Production: 78% overall (39th): 70% offense (67th), 85% defense (15th)
Returning Talent Index: 1.00, 8th in SEC
Returning starters: 9/11 offense, 10/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: KJ Jefferson (Sophomore)

KJ Jefferson has appeared in eight games so far in his career and made one start in each of his past two seasons. In 72 pass attempts, he completed 47.2% of his passes for 492 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Jefferson is a former four-star recruit and as a dual threat, he should make a big difference with his legs. It’s difficult to know what to expect from a quarterback who is getting his first full-time spot as the starter, but he should be put in a great position to succeed.

Offense (non-QB): WR Treylon Burks (Junior)

Treylon Burks has been a big-impact player in this offense the last two seasons and broke through for 820 yards and seven touchdowns on 51 receptions. He and Mike Woods developed into a solid wide receiver tandem, but Woods since transferred to Oklahoma. Burks will need to prove he can perform at a high level with the defense focusing in on him every week.

Defense: LB Grant Morgan (Senior)

The strength of the Arkansas defense should be the linebacker positions, and Grant Morgan should be among the best players at the position in the SEC this season. He and Bumper Pool have a ton of experience, and they should be the leaders of this unit. Morgan broke through with 110 tackles last season including 7.5 for loss with two sacks and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 57th overall: 54th offense, 62nd defense, 107th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 41st overall: 50th offense, 41st defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +50000
To win SEC: +10000
Win total: 6 (Over +130, Under -167)

2020 Against The Spread: 7-3-0
2020 Point Total: Over 4-6-0

2021 Arkansas Schedule

2021 Arkansas Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 Rice 2:00 pm/ESPN+ UA -20
Saturday, Sep. 11 Texas 7:00 pm/ESPN UA +3.5
Saturday, Sep. 18 Georgia Southern 4:00 pm/SECN N/A
Saturday, Sep. 25 Texas A&M (AT&T Stadium, Dallas) TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 2 at Georgia TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 at Ole Miss TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 Auburn TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 Ark. Pine Bluff (Little Rock) TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 OPEN TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 Mississippi State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 at LSU TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 20 at Alabama TBA N/A
Friday, Nov. 26 Missouri 3:30 pm/CBS N/A