Nobody expected Arkansas to lose at Missouri on Saturday.
If there was any question previous to today, it was put to rest when Tigers linebacker Eric Beisel couldn’t pronounce the name of Arkansas correctly, then more or less challenged the Razorbacks.
He then proceeded to have eight tackles in the Tigers’ 28-24 win Friday, including six of them solo. Everybody apologized, but it may have fired up Beisel more than the Hogs.
That’s just one of the wrinkles to a game that exposed a lot of Arkansas’ problems that have been bubbling near the surface for most of the year.
And now, it’s time for reflection and examination.
Despite what Bret Bielema and some were saying this was not a year of progress. The talking heads on TV and radio say that because they’re just looking at the won-loss schedule and giving you affirmation, not information.
Arkansas had four gimme wins, two of them that were much closer than they should have been. The wins over Louisiana Tech and TCU early showed this team might not be that far ahead of last year.
It turns out it’s not as good.
The final record will show 7-5, the same as last season, which could have been anywhere from 9-3 to 5-7. It was that wild in games against Toledo, Texas Tech, Tennessee, Auburn, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Let’s face it, there’s seven games that could have gone either way, affecting the final record. But it is what it is and that’s what counts.
But — and this is the most important stat — the Razorbacks were 5-3 in the SEC last season, with losses only to Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. You could easily see a couple of plays that could have made that 7-1.
Fast-forward to this season and the Hogs’ finish of 3-5 in league play. Again, where you finish in the league should be the only barometer of whether you’re making progress or not.
There’s not a lot of ambiguity in there, either. With the exception of the Missouri game, the Hogs were blown out four times in the league and their conference wins were not really in doubt in the fourth quarter.
The only quality league win was over a Florida team that played four quarters like Arkansas did the second half against the Tigers.
Here are the straight-forward numbers of where the Hogs’ program sits four years into the Bielema era:
SEC Record: 10-22. At this same point, Bobby Petrino and Houston Nutt were both 17-15 after four years as a sidenote, but they were both getting to play an extra game against an SEC East opponent.
SEC West: 7-17. Throw out the first season at 0-6 and you’re still 7-11.
Overall Record: 25-25.
November Record: 7-9 overall, 7-5 over last three seasons. Pick the side of .500 you like.
This is not a call to fire anybody. That’s something others decide, using whatever criteria they like.
But you have to wonder what the expectations are these days.
Some of us old-timers remember when eight wins a season had coaches in a dead panic over whether they would be fired or not. Anything less than being in contention for a league championship in November every season was not acceptable.
It wasn’t that long ago that Arkansas was in a position of putting up double-digit wins. They still finished third in their own division when the smoke cleared, but at least it was close enough to be there if somebody fell apart in November.
Over the last 10 years, Arkansas has finished tied for second one time (2010), third (2011), tied for third twice (2015, 2007), tied for fourth twice (2009, 2008), tied for fifth (2016), sixth (2012) and two seventh-place finishes (2014, 2013).
The averaging finishing position is 4.5, just below the middle of the pack.
It was former athletics director John Barnhill nearly 60 years who said, “teams are remembered less for what they accomplish in November than what was expected of them in August.”
That means, simply, the November result better match the August guessing or it’s an uncomfortable winter.
Or at least it used to be.
The Razorbacks are an SEC program mired in the middle of the pack in the West.
And the guess here is until expectations change, the results won’t.