Why Arkansas warrants a place among the nation’s top 25 teams
There are worse crimes in college football than losing to a Mid-American Conference team, especially a division leader with a history of upending Power Five teams. And yet, Arkansas still cannot shake the supposed stench of falling to Toledo (8-1 overall) on Sept. 12, just days after Hogs head coach Bret Bielema chided Ohio State for loading up on a steady diet of weaker teams — including two schools from the MAC (Western Michigan, Northern Illinois).
How else to explain Arkansas’ notable absence from Sunday’s AP Top 25, a countdown which includes four three-loss schools (Southern California, Oregon, Washington State, Ole Miss) but couldn’t find space for the four-loss Hogs?
For a moment, forget about Arkansas’ sluggish September (three straight defeats to Toledo, Texas Tech, Texas A&M). The Razorbacks opened October with a comeback win over Tennessee and then held a late third-quarter lead against Alabama the following Saturday, before losing in the end.
It’s worth noting: Both games were on the road.
The Alabama loss, while disheartening, might have sparked Arkansas’ current four-game win streak, which includes an easy romp of Tennessee-Martin, overtime victories over Auburn (four OTs) and Ole Miss and one seismic shakedown of LSU (Saturday night), with the Razorbacks crushing the Tigers by 17 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
What’s more, has anyone in 2015 produced a better set of back-to-back road victories than Arkansas — knocking off Ole Miss and LSU on consecutive Saturdays? Looking at the national schedules, only Oregon (close-shave road triumphs over Washington and Arizona State) and Clemson (58-0 rout of Miami, comeback win over North Carolina State) have comparable success stories away from home. And Baylor has a chance to eventually top all comers … if the Bears can win at Oklahoma State and TCU over the next two weekends.
The larger point: Strong finishers from power conferences deserve to be rewarded with Top 25 love; and Arkansas, with an average victory margin of 15.3 points since Oct. 24, might sit atop the current national listing of Top 10 Teams No One Wants To Play During Bowl Season.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.