Predicting Arkansas’ regular-season games, the 12 picks are equally divided between solid and shaky, requiring the attachment of an asterisk to six of the guesses.
The symbol permits the prognosticator to react to developments in Fayetteville and elsewhere and reverse the selection the week of the game.
Disposing of the easy ones first, start by distributing Arkansas’ 130-plus points among Florida A&M, New Mexico State, and Coastal Carolina in any combination. On the other side of the ledger are Alabama, Auburn, and LSU, each with a new offensive coordinator:
— Oct. 14, at Alabama. Don’t over think this. Arkansas will compete and the more talented team will win. Running back Bo Scarbrough and wide receiver Calvin Ridley are likely to be among the first selected at their positions in the NFL draft next spring and Brian Daboll was hired to make more use of Alabama’s wide receivers and tight ends. Plus, good defense is an Alabama staple. ALABAMA 31, ARKANSAS 14.
— Oct. 21, Auburn, in Fayetteville. Gus Malzahn brought on Chip Lindsey to diversify an offense that attempted less than 290 passes in 13 games and Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham is equipped to handle the assignment. AUBURN 35, ARKANSAS 24.
— Nov. 11, at LSU. Playing LSU the week after the Tigers take on Alabama should work in Arkansas’ favor, but an emotional edge is not enough to overcome the disparity in talent. Matt Canada will improve the production of quarterback Danny Etling with alignments and creative plays. LSU 21, ARKANSAS 17.
The outcome of the remaining six games will shape a record ranging from disappointing (six) to tolerable (seven) to solid (eight) to marvelous (nine).
When well-known sports handicapper Danny Sheridan told a Fayetteville-based radio station that he thought Arkansas could be favored in as many as nine games, incredulity was immediate. But, the Vegas over-under of seven wins for Arkansas is higher than the number assigned Mississippi State, South Carolina, Missouri, and Ole Miss, equal to the Texas A&M total, and only a tick behind TCU’s 7.5.
Without further delay:
— Sept. 9, TCU, in Fayetteville. Quarterback Kenny Hill was responsible for 470 yards in last year’s loss to Arkansas and coach Gary Patterson says Hill is better than
a year ago. Hill’s 269 completions last year were the second-most in a TCU season, but his 13 interceptions were the most by a quarterback in Patterson’s era. A difficult test for Arkansas’ pass defense. TCU 31, ARKANSAS 28.
— Sept. 23, Texas A&M, in Arlington. No matter whether the quarterback is pure freshman Kellen Mond, redshirt freshman Nick Starkel, or senior Jake Hubenak, advantage Arkansas with Austin Allen. Besides, the Aggies can’t simply plug in replacements for formidable pass rushers Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. ARKANSAS 27, TEXAS A&M 21.
— Oct. 7, at South Carolina. Even though quarterback Jake Bentley didn’t play until late October, he threw for 1,420 yards, completing 66 percent of his passes. How South Carolina fares against Missouri and Kentucky in Sept. is of interest. This is a prime game for a do-over. SOUTH CAROLINA 28, ARKANSAS 24.
— Oct. 28, at Mississippi. The resignation of Hugh Freeze, a self-imposed postseason ban, a continuing NCAA investigation, and the Rebels’ schedule makes for a steep hill. The Arkansas game comes after Ole Miss plays at Alabama and Auburn, then is home vs. Vanderbilt, and LSU. ARKANSAS 28, OLE MISS 20.
— Nov. 18, Mississippi State, in Fayetteville. MSU’s Nick Fitzgerald accounted for more than 4,100 yards last year and could be the All-SEC quarterback, but he lacks sufficient help for major success. The Bulldogs have their fourth defensive coordinator in four years. ARKANSAS 35, MISSISSIPPI STATE 24.
— Nov. 25, Missouri, in Fayetteville. Drew Lock, who threw two or more interceptions in four SEC games, averaged almost 17 yards per each of his 16 completions in the 2016 victory over Arkansas. Go figure. Simply, Arkansas is more talented. ARKANSAS 31, MISSOURI 20.
Currently, the bottom line is 7-5, but don’t forget the asterisk.
Sports Columnist Harry King can be reached at: email@example.com