Coach Sam Pittman

Tusk to Tail: Consensus is at least nine wins for the Hogs, so get the jukebox ready

What will the Razorbacks’ record (including post-season) be this year?

Mac Garland: The Hogs play in the SEC West, so every year is a bloodbath. However, there are no world beaters from the East on the schedule like that Georgia game last year. The Razorbacks do travel to Provo in mid-October to face a really good BYU team. There’s no doubt Coach Pittman’s third season is filled with expectations. Kendal Briles will coach KJ Jefferson for a 2nd season, which is a first for him in his career as OC. Are the receivers ready to collectively fill the shoes of NFL first-round draft pick Treylon Burks? Vegas has set the line at 7.5 wins in the regular season. Give me the over. Hogs will finish 10-3 this season.

Mark Wagner: While the Hogs had 9 wins last season and several key pieces still in place, I also remember that a few of our victories came down to the final plays of the game. Does anyone remember Mississippi State’s missed field goal, or how close the Ole Miss game was? On top of that, our schedule is arguably harder than it was last year. Taking all that into account I’m predicting another 9-4 season.

Todd Rudisill: Nobody knows how this season will go but we will know the general direction after September. Let’s have some Hog Kool-Aid shall we? Cincy – W, USC – W, Petrino (aka program killer) – W, A&M (make it 2 in a row) – W, Bama – L (can’t pick them until they prove it), Miss State – L, BYU – W, Auburn – W, Liberty – W, LSU – L,  Ole Miss – W, Missouri – W (first win in Columbia). A New Year’s Day bowl game for the second year in a row makes 9-3 plus a bowl dub.

#23 Cincinnati @ #19 Arkansas
Todd Rudisill: This is one of the top three games of the day. It will be the first top 25 opener for the Razorbacks since 1980, when the sixth-ranked Hogs lost to #10 Texas in Austin 23-17. This is a legit top 25 non-conference game, and the Bearcats will give the Hogs all they want for at least three quarters. Cincinnati is well-coached by Luke Fickell. They were a College Football Playoff (CFP) team last year, winner of 29 of its last 30 regular season games. The Bearcats’ D was third in the nation in takeaways. Cincinnati comes in without having announced a starting QB after Desmond Ridder was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. What we do know is they are solid on the offensive line, and that will ultimately keep them in the game. The Hogs’ running game will crank up as the game goes on and wear Cincy down. Throw in a few big plays downfield, and the Hogs come out with their biggest non-conference opener maybe ever. Razorbacks take it 31-20.

Mark Wagner: The Hogs have too much coming back, Cincinnati lost way too much from their playoff team last year, and we are playing at home. The Hogs will grind it out on the ground and dominate time of possession. KJ will show why he might be the best QB in the SEC, and the defense will do enough keep the Bearcats in check. I predict a Razorback win, 21-17.

Mac Garland: Luke Fickell lost several players to the NFL draft. While they have plenty of talented players joining the squad, they’re new and likely not ready for prime time. Most experts feel the Hogs’ offensive line is better than the Crimson Tide’s that mauled the Bearcats in the CFP Semifinal last year. Between the afternoon heat, the crowd, and that O-line, it could be a long day for Cincy. That said, it is the first game of the season and there will be kinks to work out on both sides of the ball. Hogs win 30-20.

#11 Oregon vs. #3 Georgia
Mac Garland: This is basically a home game for Georgia in Atlanta, who is favored by more than two touchdowns. Several players from last year’s defense have moved to the NFL, where they belong. The offense behind QB Stetson Bennett is expected to carry the load, especially early in the year. Stetson had some very nice throws in the national championship game and he’s solid. This Oregon team has a new coach only because Mario Cristobal went home to Miami. The Ducks beat Ohio State in Columbus last year, and the new Head Coach Dan Lanning knows all about the tendencies of this Georgia team, having relocated from Athens. He’ll have some wrinkles for the game plan, but Georgia will win. Oregon 18, UGA 26

Mark Wagner: Oregon has a new coach and quarterback that will be taking on the defending National Champions. There may be some questions whether Georgia can replace their 15 players taken in the NFL draft. I don’t think the Bulldogs will miss a beat, as they’ve had great recruiting classes and have loads of depth. I predict Georgia to win handily. Georgia 37, Oregon 14

#7 Utah @ Florida
Mac Garland: The Utes are making their first visit to the Swamp as they look to wreck the home opener for new Gator Head Coach Billy Napier. Utah won the Pac-12 last year and have aspirations to make the CFP this season. Nothing will help that more than a win against a SEC team on ESPN at 6 p.m. Saturday. Maybe the humidity helps the Gators some, but it’s been hot out west this summer. Kyle Whittingham will have his team ready to go behind their stellar defense. Florida QB Anthony Richardson is 6’4″, 240 pounds, and has drawn comparisons to Cam Newton. However, this is only his second start, and the Utah defense is experienced and stellar. It should be an outstanding game, but Napier starts 0-1. Utah 30, Florida 24

#5 Notre Dame @ #2 Ohio State
Mark Wagner: Ohio State’s offense should score early and often, but it may take the Buckeye defense a few series to fully settle in. Either way, the Irish will not be able to keep up with the offensive firepower, and OSU pulls away in the fourth quarter. Ohio State 37, Notre Dame 28

Memphis @ Mississippi State
Mac Garland: According to the experts, when Mississippi State Head Coach Mike Leach has a third season, everything clicks in a way it hadn’t the first two seasons. Add to that, they have 8 starters back on both sides of the ball. Even if neither of those things were true, they are ready for revenge against Memphis after the game last year. Almost anyone watching not wearing Tigers blue or residing in Oxford believe the refs stole that game from the Bulldogs. MSU quarterback Will Rogers will make it a long day for Memphis fans. The good news for them is that it’s a short drive home. Miss St 37, Memphis 20

Florida State vs. LSU
Mark Wagner:  This will be a strength vs. strength matchup. Florida State, who showed a great rushing attack last week against Duquesne, goes against a very good LSU defense which many say has one of the best defensive fronts in the country. However, LSU’s offensive line could be a problem as they are very young and will start two sophomores and a true freshman. With LSU’s good defense but question marks on offense trying to incorporate Kelley’s new system, this could be a low scoring game. I expect Florida State to find some success on the ground to control the clock. But I’m also an SEC homer, so I’m going to call it LSU 17, Florida State 14.

Editor’s note: Now in its 11th year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail will be to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.

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