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Preview 2016: Arkansas & Bret Bielema Keep Improving


Arkansas Razorbacks Preview 2016: It’s taken a while, but the Hogs are improving under Bret Bielema.


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It might not seem like it, but Arkansas is improving under Bret Bielema.

The program needed to completely rebuild, reload, and reposition itself after the fallout from the Bobby Petrino fiasco, and under Bielema it went from three wins in 2013, to seven in 2014, to eight last year, but that’s not quite enough in the impatient world of the SEC.

Losing to Toledo and Texas Tech on the way to a 2-4 start had some suggesting Bielema was on a hot seat, but a miracle against Ole Miss, a dominant performance against a reeling LSU, and some big offensive performances turned things around with a 6-1 finish for the school’s best season since 2011.

But considering Arkansas seemed so close to doing something truly special under Petrino, and with the way Bielema was able to take Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowls, it’s okay to think more is coming.

Remember, after a sensational first season – taking over a heater team from Barry Alvarez – it took three years for Bielema to get the Badgers to the Big Ten championship, and then came three in a row. But it’s a little harder to do in the SEC West. If it’s going to happen, though, this might be the year to get it done and win the division.

The Hogs never had a chance last year thanks to the schedule with road games against Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU. It just so happened that they won three of those four, but the rocky start ruined the fun. This time around they get the Crimson Tide, Rebels, Tigers, and Florida at home with the SEC road games at Auburn, Mississippi State, and Missouri all more than winnable.

In other words, win nine games, Bret, and maybe more.

First, the offensive identity needs to return. After winging it around the yard throughout last season, the Hogs should go back to a big more of a power game with huge running backs running behind a huge line to control games and the tempo. Enough of the receivers return to keep the air show going at times, too.

The defense that had so many problems coming up with key stops at times needs more from the secondary to go along with a potentially fantastic front seven. Don’t expect so many shootouts and meltdowns.

Will it be enough to win the West? Probably not considering LSU and Alabama should be fantastic, and the non-conference date at TCU should also be a problem, but Bielema teams are about attitude. It doesn’t matter who they play, when, and where. Be physical, let the other team melt down, and bully the way to wins.

Arkansas can do it. It has the right ingredients to come up with the year Hog fans have been waiting for, even if it’s taken a little while. As long as Bielema’s team keeps on improving, it’ll be doing what it’s supposed to.