With spring game announced, it feels like a make-or-break year for Arkansas football

With your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points. There is no place like it on the Web.

Football has become a year-round sport. Three-hundred-sixty-five days a year we consume our new American pastime. Heck, even now, with Arkansas coaches on vacation, news — minor and major — comes out.

News from Tuesday was legit. Arkansas announced its spring game date and time — an announcement sure to whet the salty appetites of a fan base alternating between frustrated and ambivalent with the Arkansas basketball team.

The game is April 29, almost exactly a month after the Razorbacks begin spring practice. It’s unclear whether the game will be “best on best,” typically Bielema’s favorite way to handle, or some variation thereof.

And you can count on fans paying close attention to what happens in the spring. That’s what this state does. Especially now.

Arkansas lives and breathes the Razorbacks. All apologies to Arkansas State, but this is Hogs Country. More than that, it’s Hogs Football Country. And in a season that feels like a tipping point for the program, the masses of the state are going to be laser-focused on all things football until next December.

Were the right coaching changes made?

Will the switch to the 3-4 work?

Who is catching balls from Austin Allen?

These questions are not uncommon elsewhere, either. The SEC is football country. But it just feels so much stronger this calendar year than it has in the past. Arkansas, the state, seems more fervent in its football-over-everything attitude. Every taken seat inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium will be filled with a body uncertain, anxious to see which direction their Hogs are going.

Because it’s possible Arkansas is still on the rise. It’s possible it falls back. And, frankly, it’s possible (if not likely, even), the Razorbacks continue to be what they’ve been most of the last 15 years on average.

But in Year 5 of the Bielema regime, the Natural State is one waiting for answers. And that’s why Tuesday was such a big deal.

Stayin’ Alive

Mike Anderson’s basketball team sits squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. They Razorbacks have been there now for almost three weeks. At this point, it’s an oxymoron: comfortably on the bubble.

Arkansas F/C Moses Kingsley (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Arkansas F/C Moses Kingsley (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

With six games left in the season, Arkansas is fourth in the SEC with an 18-7 overall record, 7-5 conference mark. Some sources, such as ESPN, USA Today and Fox Sports, have Arkansas on the “in” side of the ledger. CBS Sports’Jerry Palm, who has consistently had the Razorbacks lower than his major outlet cohorts, has Arkansas “out,” though they are the first team on the list. Meaning, not a lot separates Anderson’s crew from the Big Dance, even to the most fervent opponent of Arkansas’ résumé.

That makes the Razorbacks’ game with South Carolina on Wednesday quite valuable. South Carolina is a 6 seed in most brackets and tied for first place in the SEC. The game is in Columbia, as well, which would make an Arkansas win absolutely huge. It would almost definitely be enough to get the Razorbacks off the bubble …

For the time being.

Diamond Hogs rotation set for opener

Two of the three starting pitchers for Arkansas’ season-opening series against Miami (Ohio) are now known.

Blaine-Knight
Arkansas pitcher Blaine Knight

Sophomore Blaine Knight, unsurprisingly, will start the first game of the season Friday at 3 p.m. inside Baum Stadium. Junior college transfer Trevor Stephan will go Saturday to open his Razorbacks career. Arkansas’ Sunday starter is to be determined as Isaiah Campbell, who is expected to hold down the job most of the season, may be skipped as he deals with some arm soreness. Redshirt freshman Kevin Kopps is the most likely replacement if it comes to that.

Arkansas’ first six games of the season will be in Fayetteville. After Miami visits for a three-game set this weekend, the Razorbacks welcome Bryant to Fayetteville the next weekend. Miami is expected to win the Mid-American Conference and Bryant was a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament last season. Arkansas finished last in the SEC in 2016 but was picked fifth in the West for this season.

Honors around

Arkansas landed two SEC Players of the Week this past week in non-revenue sports.

Razorbacks track and field star Clive Pullen …

… and softball hitter Nicole Schroeder picked up league awards.

Schroeder’s stats speak for themselves. Plus, Arkansas is off to a 4-0 start. The Razorbacks didn’t win their fourth game last season until Game No. 8.

Pullen’s was the magic. He set a new indoor world record in the triple jump by going 17.19 meters in his final-round jump at this past weekend’s Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville.

ICYMI

Arkansas athletes used Valentine’s Day morning to spend time with some American veterans. Our Trent Shadid has some details. Very cool.

  • On the randomly cool tip: A rescued seal will be named after former Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers following the Patriots lineman’s performance in the Super Bowl. Andrew Hutchinson at 247Sports.com with the story.
  • Speaking of South Carolina, the Gamecocks are a muck-and-grind team and their coach is putting a focus on interior play ahead of their game against Arkansas on Tuesday night, writes our Mike Wilson.

Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas

“Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang means I love you!”

OK, it’s not the exact line from The Delfonics hit of 1968, but this story was just oh-so fitting to come on Valentine’s Day …

A man in Sherwood is going to try to claim self-defense after he allegedly shot his lover’s other lover in an altercation back in December. The day after Christmas, no less.

Tyson Humphrey Jr. shot Bradley Chastain in the leg as the two argued over Chancey Carter, who, apparently, was lovers with both men. And that’s according to her mom in this story from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Anyway, Humphrey is charged with first-degree battery and committing a terroristic act (which seems a little much) over accusations he shot the father of Carter’s child.

Ahhhh, can you smell that? It’s love. And gunpowder.

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