After failing to play in a bowl game for four years in a row, the Arkansas Razorbacks finally made their return to bowl season in 2021, even winning the Outback Bowl at the expense of the Penn State Nittany Lions in January 2022. That signifies that the Razorbacks are back, and they will look to build on that solid campaign this upcoming season where they will have to prove that Arkansas football is more than just a flash in the pan in today’s landscape of college football. Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman is optimistic about what lays ahead of Arkansas football.
Via Aaron Suttles of The Athletic:
“I think when we first got here we wanted to, you know, to be able to compete,” Pittman said. “Our first goal each year is to be bowl eligible, and then after that, it’s wherever the season takes us. We want to be loyal. We want to be tough. And we want to play hard as hell. And if we can do that, then the results, in my opinion, will take care of themselves.”
With all that said, here are a couple of reasons why the Arkansas Razorbacks can end up as the 2022 SEC champions.
Watch College Football Games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)
Why Arkansas Football Will Win 2022 SEC Championship
2. The double-edge Razor(back)
We are talking about KJ Jefferson here who will be entering his junior year in Fayetteville coming off the heels of a tremendous body of work in 2021 where he really turned the corner. After warming the seat for most of his first two seasons in Arkansas as a secondary option in the quarterback room, Jefferson finally got his chance to be on top of the position’s pecking order in 2021. That season. Jefferson passed for 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns against just four interceptions while also connecting to his targets 67.3 percent of the time. Among qualified SEC quarterbacks last season, Jefferson’s completion rate was fourth best in the league — putting him ahead of the like of Alabama Crimson Tide signal-caller and Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and just a few decimal ticks below Ole Miss Rebels gunslinger and now Carolina Panthers rookie Matt Corral.
Pittman has plenty of reasons to believe that Jefferson could surpass his 2021 production and efficiency in 2022, especially with the experience he now has. But there’s more to Jefferson than just being a dependable passing quarterback. In his first year as the full-blown starter of Arkansas football, Jefferson made sure to display as well what he could do with his legs. Jefferson paced the Razorbacks with 644 rushing yards to go with a total of six touchdowns on 146 rushing attempts for an average of 4.5 yards per carry. In other words, he was the central figure of Arkansas football’s ground attack that led the entire SEC with 227.77 rushing yards per game. Jefferson could regress, of course, but he will always be viewed as a dangerous dual-threat by opponents, and probably that’s going to be all Arkansas needs to loosen up SEC defenses.
When the Razorbacks went toe to toe against Alabama late in the 2021 season, Jefferson struggled to gain yards on the ground, coming up with a paltry sum of 22 rushing yards on 13 carries, but he was golden moving the rock through the air, going 22/30 for 326 passing yards and three touchdowns without getting intercepted. Jefferson is going to be a problem, and it’s probably even better for the Razorbacks that he feels as though he’s got a chip on his shoulder after not getting a nod to be part of preseason all-SEC teams.
“It’s pretty normal now. I’ve been doubted my whole life,” Jefferson told KATV. “Having that motivation going into the season always gives you an edge.”
1. Hogging the limelight on the ground
Arkansas football’s passing attack gets dinged with wide receiver Treylon Burks now earning pro money in the NFL. Burks was the top option downfield for Jefferson, leading the Razorbacks with 1,104 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 66 receptions. He was head and shoulders over everyone else in the receiving corps of Arkansas, which ranked 81st nationally in passing yards per game (214.0) and just 11th in the SEC.
However, the Razorbacks can always rely on their rushing game. As mentioned earlier, KJ Jefferson is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback and he will be working the gaps on the ground together with returning running backs Raheim Sanders and Dominique Johnson, who each had at least 575 rushing yards last season while also combining for 10 rushing touchdowns. AJ Green is also back and he could be on the verge of breaking out in his sophomore year after rushing only 47 times in 2021 and converting those to 227 rushing yards and a touchdown.