By Otis KIrk
FAYETTEVILLE — According to ESPN’s Chris Low, Arkansas once again has the most difficult football schedule of all Power 5 schools.
Arkansas opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 3, at home against Cincinnati. The Bearcats made the College Football Playoffs last year where the fell to Alabama. Low explained why Arkansas’ schedule is considered the toughest.
“A handful of schools can make strong cases here, including Auburn, Georgia Tech, Indiana, LSU, Mississippi State, Stanford and Vanderbilt. But for the second straight year, Arkansas‘ schedule is brutal, with five games against top-25 teams. The Hogs are one of five Power 5 teams (Georgia Tech, Oregon, Stanford and Texas Tech the others) that have two nonconference games against ranked teams — No. 23 Cincinnati at home to open the season Sept. 3 and No. 19 BYU on the road Oct. 15. In the three weeks leading up to that BYU trip, Arkansas faces No. 5 Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas, No. 1 Alabama at home and Mississippi State on the road. Throw in the trip to Auburn on Oct. 29, and the Hogs have a stretch where they play four of five games away from home.”
Sam Pittman is seeing his Razorbacks come off a 9-4 season. He realizes what the team was able to do against the difficult schedule last year and hopes for success again in 2022.
“Challenging schedule again,” Pittman said. “I think this is the third year in a row, only been here year years, so I know it’s the third year in a row that we’ve been awarded the toughest schedule in college football. All 12 of this year’s opponents made post-season play last year. Our crossover games are with South Carolina and Missouri.
“Excited about our non-conference opponents this year. Week one we play the University of Cincinnati. Luke
Fickell is the head coach there. They went to College Football Playoff, AAC conference champions, AFCA Coach of the Year. Week three we play Missouri State. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas coach, had great success at the University of Arkansas. Has been in the FCS Playoffs the last two seasons. BYU, they’re 21-4. They have two top-20 finishes over the last two years, 20 returning starters. We go to BYU. Then Liberty, they have three straight bowl wins under Coach (Hugh) Freeze. We all know about Coach Freeze.”
Pittman was asked if the intention is to scale back some on the non-conference games in the future since the difficulty of the SEC is obvious?
“Well, you know, schedules are scheduled out so many years in advance,” Pittman said. “Nobody knew, maybe they did, but Cincinnati, when they were scheduled, I know they weren’t in the College Football Playoff. BYU has always been really, really a good program. But they’re at the top of their game. Well, not top. I think they played for a national championship a few years back. I may be all messed up on that one.
But being 21-4, having 20 starters coming back, I laugh at home saying they’re trying to fire me. I hope not. I mean, I like it there.”
Pittman also talked about when the Razorbacks started 4-0 last season including wins over Texas and Texas A&M how some said they wouldn’t be able to slip up on teams after that.
“So I think with the realignment, which thank you for not asking me that question, everything is trying to become fair,” Pittman said. “Right now the West, if you’re in the West, it’s a beast. I’m not saying the East isn’t. You have that, then play another couple, three teams in your non-conference schedule that are go-getters, it’s hard, hard to maintain.
“Last year we went 4-0. Somebody said, You’re not going to be able to slip on anybody. We didn’t slip up on Georgia last year either. I think they knew we was coming in there. I don’t know. One point I’m hoping it will ease up a little bit. But right now it hasn’t.”
The Razorbacks and Bearcats will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. and be televised on ESPN.