HOGS open No. 19 in AP Poll
FAYETTEVILLE — Some Arkansas fans will be delighted merely that the Razorbacks start the football season ranked among the top 25 teams nationally by the Associated Press.
Sam Pittman's third Arkansas team checked in Monday at No. 19, fourth to No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia and No. 6 Texas A&M among SEC schools.
Kentucky (20) and Ole Miss (21) give the conference six ranked teams.
The Razorbacks face two of the higher-ranked SEC teams in the first five weeks: Texas A&M Sept. 24 at Arlington, Texas, and Alabama on Oct. 1, the following Saturday in Fayetteville.
Other ranked UA opponents are Ole Miss and No. 23 Cincinnati, both at Fayetteville, with the Bearcats up first Sept. 3. Arkansas has an October date with No. 25 BYU during a five-week stretch without a home game.
An early rankings shift is possible Sept. 3 after No. 5 Notre Dame visits No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Georgia gets No. 11 Oregon in Atlanta. The first ranked teams take the field on Thursday, Sept. 1, all playing at home, with No. 12 Oklahoma State against Colorado State, No. 16 Pittsburgh against West Virginia, and No. 22 Wake Forest against VMI. Labor Day weekend wraps up with a night game Sept. 5, No. 4 Clemson at Georgia Tech.
Barring slip-ups, Alabama at Texas Sept. 10 looms large in the first meeting between Nick Saban and former Crimson Tide offensive aide Steve Sarkisian, in his second year at Austin. That outcome should let Texas fans know how giddy to feel when future SEC rival Oklahoma comes up a few weeks later in Dallas, the first game between Sarkisian and new Oklahoma Coach Brent Venables.
The inquisitive fan is sure to note that Arkansas, 23rd in the coaches' poll, and Cincinnati (22) are ranked higher in AP. So are Oregon, Utah, USC, Mami, Wisconsin and BYU.
Arkansas gets an early nod over Cincinnati and Ole Miss because KJ Jefferson (in Craven Whitlow photo) returns at quarterback after a nine-win season. Even true believers in Razorback Nation urge caution if Jefferson goes down and Arkansas must use a less experienced backup at the position or, with Treylon Burks off to the pros, Jefferson does not develop an immediate rapport with a new receiver.
Jefferson was not ranked among their top three SEC quarterbacks at Media Days, but QB provides an early clue why Arkansas is ranked ahead of Ole Miss, which must replace Matt Corral. Alabama, with Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young (47 touchdown passes) returning, has no such worry. Stay tuned for what Jimbo Fisher, after a recruiting haul that drew Saban's ire at Alabama, comes up with at Texas A&M