By Otis Kirk
ESPN has released its way-too-early Top 25 teams for the 2019 college football season and Arkansas will face five of them.
The Razorbacks will begin Chad Morris’ second season on Saturday, Aug. 31, when it host Portland State in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. They will follow that game by traveling to Ole Miss on Sept. 7 to open SEC play. They will then host Colorado State and San Jose State at Razorback Stadium.
None of those teams are ranked in the ESPN Top 25. The schools in the Top 25 that faces Arkansas and their rankings are Texas A&M (9), Alabama (2), LSU (10), Missouri (22) and Auburn (23). Arkansas won’t face them, but the SEC also had Georgia (3) and Florida (7) in the Top 25.
The Hogs will meet the Aggies on Saturday, Sept. 28 in Arlington, Texas, at AT&T Stadium. Arkansas hasn’t beaten Texas A&M since the 2011 season. Texas A&M is coming off a 9-4 season under Jimbo Fisher. The Aggies will welcome back 13 starters from 2018 including quarterback Kellen Mond.
The Hogs will get a bye following the Texas A&M game and will face Kentucky on Oct. 12. Kentucky was much improved in 2018 finishing 10-3 including a win over Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. They finished second in the SEC East to Georgia.
On Oct. 19, the Hogs will host Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers in Fayetteville. The Tigers are the second ranked team by ESPN the Hogs will face. Auburn was a disappointing 8-5 in 2018 and were only 3-5 in SEC play. Malzahn is reportedly under intense pressure to win in 2019. The 63-14 win over Purdue in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl was impressive. Malzahn’s only loss to Arkansas while at Auburn was a 54-46 four-overtime thriller in 2015 also in Fayetteville.
The Hogs will go to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Oct. 26 to face Alabama and Nick Saban. Arkansas hasn’t beaten the Tide since a 24-23 two-overtime game in Razorback Stadium in 2006. The last time they won in Tuscaloosa was in 2003 when they took a 34-31 two-overtime victory. Saban will have the Crimson Tide focused in 2019 following a convincing 44-16 loss to Clemson on Monday night.
Arkansas will host Mississippi State and Western Kentucky on consecutive Saturdays to begin November. They will close the regular season against two more of ESPN’s ranked teams following another bye week on Nov. 16.
The Hogs will be in Baton Rouge on Nov. 23 to take on LSU. The Tigers are coming off a 10-3 season under Ed Orgeron. Arkansas last beat LSU in 2015 when they took a 31-14 victory in Baton Rouge. That game was one of the most impressive wins during Bret Bielema’s five years as head coach.
Arkansas and Missouri will meet in Little Rock probably on Friday, Nov. 29. The game is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 30, but it is regularly moved to Friday afternoon and televised by CBS. This will be the first time for the Hogs and Missouri to meet in War Memorial Stadium. Arkansas has one lone win against the Tigers in the past five games. Arkansas took a 28-3 victory in Razorback Stadium in 2015.
The Tigers were 8-5 in 2018 and won a recruiting battle for quarterback Kelly Bryant. When the former Clemson quarterback visited Arkansas he left the seats to head down to the sidelines and Razorback fans were chanting Bryant’s name. Needless to say it’s likely he gets a very different reception in Little Rock this November.
Arkansas is hoping to make vast improvement over a 2-10 season in 2018. Morris and his staff have gotten one of the better recruiting classes in recent memory. They have nine players enrolling at midterm from the Class of 2019.
Arkansas has Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Blackman wide receiver Trey Knox, Iowa Central Community College offensive lineman Myron Cunningham, Lackawanna (Pa.) Community College offensive lineman Chibueze Nwanna, Joe T. Robinson defensive end Zach Williams, Harvey (La.) West Jefferson cornerback Gregory Brooks Jr., Douglasville (Ga.) Douglas County defensive end Mataio Soli, Searcy preferred walk-on offensive lineman Andrew Vest and the Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy pair of wide receiver Shamar Nash and defensive end Eric Gregory as midterm signees.