Analyzing hits and misses on Arkansas football season

Arkansas' Brandon Allen (10) looks for an open receiver during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Samantha Baker)

People who spout off about what they think they know should be held accountable for what actually happens.

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That's why I retrieved from the archives a predictions column I wrote about the Razorbacks in August, one week before the season began. I've added an update under each prediction.

FINAL RECORD: The Razorbacks will go 9-4 this year, capped by a win over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.

So, how do they get there?

Arkansas will go 4-0 in nonconference and 4-4 in SEC play. That's eight wins with a lot of momentum heading into the bowl season after beating Missouri in the regular-season finale.

UPDATE: Arkansas has a chance to win eight games with a bowl victory, but it's amazing to me a team that lost to Toledo at home could go on the road and win big at LSU. Arkansas turned a lot of happy drunks into sad drunks in Baton Rouge that night.

KEY GAME: Oct. 24 vs. Auburn. Arkansas should be 5-1 at least heading into an SEC West showdown with the highly-ranked Tigers. Win this game and Arkansas heads into November 7-1 after a win over Tennessee-Martin the following weekend. If Arkansas falls to the Tigers at home, the Razorbacks could slide back into 8-5 or even 7-6 territory.

UPDATE: I was way off here with the records. Arkansas was 2-4 heading into the Auburn game instead of 5-1. But the 54-46 overtime victory saved the season for the Razorbacks, who followed with wins over Tennessee-Martin, Ole Miss, and LSU.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Brandon Allen. At least, I hope he is.

Just wait until Arkansas loses its first game. Some yahoo will call a radio station again claiming Allen is not an SEC (caliber) quarterback.

We've heard this before, but I'm confident Allen is positioned for a big season as a fifth-year senior. Sure, he's made mistakes and been inaccurate at times with his passes. But part of the problem has been a receiving corps that gets about as much separation as the line of cars outside the new Whataburger in Fayetteville.

UPDATE: I wouldn't blame Brandon Allen if he stood at the downtown square in Fayetteville and pummel his critics with Nerf footballs. But he's too classy for that.

He is definitely the Razorbacks' MVP. A special nod goes to Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who gave Allen the opportunity to excel.

BREAKOUT PLAYER: How about Drew Morgan, who caught 10 passes for 181 yards last season as a sophomore?

Morgan should triple his production as a reliable mid-range receiver for Allen. Morgan is not fast by SEC standards, but I like the feistiness and competitive spirit of the former Bulldog who played championship football for coach Rick Jones at Greenwood.

UPDATE: About halfway through the season, a neighbor turned to me and asked, "Where did this kid come from? He's a helluva player."

Drew Morgan came from Greenwood, where he led the Bulldogs to two undefeated season. No one exhibits the fighting spirit of the Razorbacks more than Morgan, who has 55 catches and 10 touchdowns. He blocks well down field and isn't intimidated in the least by elite pass defenders in the SEC.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Arkansas players talk about safety Santos Ramirez like he's the second coming of former Razorback Steve Atwater.

Atwater could cover receivers in addition to being a heavy-hitter for the Razorbacks. Can Ramirez do the same? We'll see.

UPDATE: Newcomer of the Year to me is freshman Dre Greenlaw, who was one of the few standouts on a defense that regressed from last season. Some will cite receiver Dominique Reed as Newcomer of the Year, but I'm sticking with Greenlaw.

MOST INSPIRATIONAL PLAYER: Can a guy who doesn't play a down all year make a difference for the Razorbacks?

Absolutely, when his name is Jonathan Williams.

Williams is unlikely to play this year after he injured his left foot in a preseason scrimmage. That's a tough blow for the Razorbacks and Williams, a projected All-SEC running back who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Just don't expect Williams to sulk and retreat from the scene. He'll show up on the sidelines with a positive attitude and serve as a mentor to his younger teammates.

Williams' payoff will come in 2016 when he heads to the NFL with a glowing endorsement from Bielema, who's helped put several players into the league.

UPDATE: Williams was invited to the Senior Bowl, which is quite an honor for someone who didn't play this season. He'll get his chance in the pros and long be remembered in Arkansas as a dedicated and inspirational player for the Razorbacks.

Sports on 11/29/2015