Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) throws a pass against Cincinnati during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Razorbacks at the Bye Week: Looking Forward

Despite having a 3-0 record in non-conference play, the Arkansas Razorbacks (4-3) are currently tied for last in the SEC West. Some things will need to change for them to make the most out of this football season.

Continuing the Pittman Saga

Arkansas HC Sam Pittman has a long and storied coaching career in the SEC. Having previously worked at Arkansas from 2013-2015 as an offensive line coach, Pittman was familiar with the culture when he was hired as head coach in 2019. Now in his third season coaching the Hogs, Pittman deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround the program has made. When he took the helm, Arkansas was coming off back-to-back winless seasons in conference play. Pittman was able to bring the Razorbacks to a win in the Outback Bowl last season after posting a respectable 4-4 SEC record.

Expectations were high entering the 2022 season. They were ranked No. 19 in the preseason AP poll. Following early wins over Cincinnati and South Carolina, they cracked the top 10. After losing their next SEC game to No. 23 Texas A&M in a thriller, the train came off the rails. They dropped two more games after that, eventually getting booted from the top 25 entirely. They enter this week’s bye following a promising 52-35 road win at BYU.

A major factor stalling the Razorbacks’ success is injuries. Arkansas has been one of the most banged-up teams in the SEC. Key players were forced to miss large portions of the season thus far. Pittman spoke on how this bye week will hopefully help with this issue.

What’s Working

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson is an electric talent, and he was certainly missed after he suffered a head injury against Alabama. Jefferson missed the entirety of the game against Mississippi State, where Arkansas was routed 40-17 due to a sputtering offense. With Jefferson back in the lineup, the Razorbacks offense picked up against BYU, and they are hopeful that production will continue with him back at the helm. So far this season, Jefferson’s TD-INT ratio is incredible; it currently sits at 14-1.

What Needs Work

As Coach Pittman discussed in his bye week press conference, injuries are a major hindrance. Along with Jefferson, the Hogs’ defense has been riddled with downed men throughout the season. Most of Pittman’s press conference discussed the status of these impact players and the performance of the players who stepped in to fill their roles. It seems like the only absence from the IL for the most part has been their offensive line, which Pittman voiced his pleasure with.

The defensive injuries have led the Razorbacks’ defense to be weak for most of the season. Arkansas has a potent offense, which averages nearly 500 yards per game. Even with this firepower, they lose mostly due to poor coverage from the secondary. They allow 316 yards per game through the air alone, which allows SEC quarterbacks to turn games into shootouts.

Looking Ahead

Hopefully, this bye week will allow the Razorbacks’ IL to empty so they can get back to their previous standard of football. Expect them to be a tough team to face in the second half if they can stay healthy.

About Steven Hieneman

Senior Sports Media/Business Administration dual major at the University of Florida, ESPN Gainesville WRUF sports correspondent.

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