Before every season, fans of their respective teams around the nation clamor for the rankings to be released. Hogs’ fans were pleased to see their team again ranked in preseason polls this season. Since 1936, including this season, Arkansas has been ranked twenty-four times, with the Hogs finishing the season in sixteen. The Razorbacks will start this season with a #23 ranking making it the first time since the 2015 season. What do the Arkansas pre-season rankings mean in the historical context of the football program?
Who led the Hogs then, and just how successful were those seasons?
Preseason Polls began in 1950; how were the Hogs in this era?
1950-1952 – Otis Douglas
When preseason polls started in 1950, Arkansas, which was coached by Otis Douglas, who coached from 1950-1952, went 2-8 and was during a lot of turmoil with football coaches. Douglas would take over for legendary coach John Barnhill, who coached from 1946-1949, went 22-17-3, and had two winning seasons out of his four as a coach. Douglas would finish his career with Arkansas with a 9-21 record but produce NFL talents such as Fred Williams, Dave ‘Hawg’ Hanner, Pat Summerall, and more from his tenure in Fayetteville. During the 1951 season, Arkansas would defeat Texas for the first win in Fayetteville and the highlight of a short career.
1953-1954 – Bowden Wyatt
Wyatt went 11-10 in his two seasons at the helm in Fayetteville. He started his career by going 3-7 in his first season. In 1954, Wyatt would lead the ’25 Little Pigs’ to the school’s second Southwest Conference Championship and a Cotton Bowl bid. In that season, Arkansas would win its first game at Texas in 17 seasons and follow it up with a 6-0 upset over then number 5 Ole Miss. That game featured the famous “Powder River Play,” which saw a 66-yard touchdown from Bob Benson to Preston Carpenter.
Following the 1954 season, Wyatt would leave for Tennessee, which was his alma mater.
1955 – 1957 – Jack Mitchell
Mitchell would finish his three-year career with a 17-12-1 record and lead the Razorbacks to three consecutive winning seasons. Mitchell would lead the hogs over Texas in the 1955 [ 27-20} and 1956 [32-14] seasons, in addition to defeating an unbeaten Ole Miss team in 1956 [14-0] and 1957 [12-6]. In the 1957 season, on homecoming, he would lead the then #11 ranked Hogs against #1 ranked Texas A&M to a one-point loss 7-6 on homecoming. Mitchell would leave for Kansas following the 1957 season.
1958-1976 – Frank Broyles
Arkansas and Frank Broyles would begin a legendary relationship in 1958 when he became the head football coach. Broyles would lead Arkansas to eleven appearances in the preseason polls while still being ranked following six of those seasons. Below are the seasons where the Hogs started and finished and a brief synopsis of the season under Broyles.
After a 4-6 1958 season Broyles would get the Razorbacks to win consistently. In 1959 he would lead Arkansas to a final ranking of #9 after a 9-2 season capped off with a 14-7 Gator Bowl win over Georgia Tech. Broyles would start what many Arkansas fans believe is a tremendous success in Arkansas Football history.
1960 – Start 19th – Finish 7th
Broyles would be the first coach to have the Razorbacks ranked in the preseason poll. Arkansas would start at the number 19 rank and finish with an 8-3 record going 6-1 and finishing 1st in the SWC. The hogs would finish the season with a 7-6 loss to Duke in the Cotton Bowl.
1965 – Start 6th – Finish – 3rd
Coming off an undefeated National Championship season in 1964, the hogs would start the following season in 6th place. They would finish the 1965 season with a 10-1 record, which included a win over #1 Texas 27-24 on Oct 16th. This season’s lone loss would come from the Cotton Bowl to LSU 14-7.
1969 – Start 2nd – Finish 7th
Arkansas would start the 1969 season in the highest ranking at number 2. The Hogs would go unbeaten until week 10, when Texas would visit Fayetteville in a battle between the #2 and #1 teams, with the Longhorns prevailing 15-14. Ole Miss would beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl 27-22 to finish the season. Arkansas finished the season 9-2.
1970 – Start 4th Finish – 9th
Arkansas would begin and end the season with losses. In the opening game, Arkansas would lose at home to #11 Stanford 34-28. Following this loss, the Razorbacks would win nine straight games before losing at #1 Texas 42-7 to finish the season with a 9-2 record.
1971 – Start 7th Finish – 16th
The 1971 season saw the Hogs start strong with three consecutive wins over Cal, Oklahoma State, and Tulsa. Arkansas would finish the season with an 8-3-1 record, with the tie coming with a final score of 24-24 against Rice. The Razorbacks would finish the season with a loss to Tennessee 14-13 in the Liberty Bowl.
1975 – Start Finish 7th
Arkansas would finish the 1975 season with a 10-2 record in a season where they started seasons four and one before losing to Texas 24-18. After that loss, Arkansas would win every game remaining on the schedule, including a win over #2 Texas A&M 31-6. They would finish the season with a 31-10 Cotton Bowl win over #9 ranked Georgia.
1976- Last Season Under Broyles
Arkansas would finish the 1976 season with a 5-5 record. 1976 would end up being Broyles’s second worst season as a head coach in Fayetteville. The Hogs would lose their final four games of the season, which included losses to Texas Tech 30-7 and Texas 29-12 to close out the season. Broyles would complete his career at 144-58-5 in Arkansas.
1977-1983 – Lou Holtz
Arkansas would hire Lou Holtz after a not-so-great stint in the NFL with the New York Jets. Holtz came to Fayetteville having to follow the most successful coach to date in Frank Broyles. He would lead them to six consecutive bowl games in his seven years at Arkansas. Two prominent notes highlighted his career. One was leading Arkansas to one of their two eleven-win seasons in 1977 and the 1978 season when he would defeat Oklahoma 31-6 in the Orange Bowl.
1978- Start 2nd Finish 10th
Following a historic eleven-win season in 1977, the Hogs came into the 1978 season red hot winning their first four games. They would drop the next two games on the road to Texas by a score of 28-21 and Houston 20-9. They would then win their five games to finish the regular season. Arkansas would receive a bid to the Fiesta Bowl, where they would tie UCLA 10-10 on Christmas Day and end with a final 9-2 record.
1979- Start 20th Finish-8th
Holtz and the Hogs would start the season 6-0, leading to a showdown with Houston. Arkansas would lose that game 13-10, then win the next four to end the regular season slate. They would play in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama and lose 24-9 to finish with a 10-2 record.
1982- Start 13th Finish 9th
The Razorbacks would start 7-0, featuring wins over Ole Miss, TCU, and Rice at home combined with Houston on the road to climb to number 5 in the country. Arkansas would travel to Waco to take on Baylor and lose 24-17, then follow it up with a win over Texas A&M 35-0. The success would set up the battle with number 2 SMU, ending in a 17-17 tie. Arkansas would lose at Texas 33-7 to close the season. The Hogs played Florida in the Bluebonnet Bowl and won 28-24.
1983- Holtz Final Season
In Holtz’s final season in Fayetteville, the Hogs would finish 6-5 on the season. Arkansas would lose 3 of the last four games of the season. Holtz would end with a 60-21-2 record in Fayetteville.
1984-1989 – Ken Hatfield
In 1984, Arkansas would hire one of two graduates as head football coach in Ken Hatfield. Hatfield would lead the Hogs to a bowl game in his six seasons and average better than nine wins per season.
1985 – Start 15th Finish 12th
After a three-year break from being ranked, the Hogs were back at #15. Arkansas would start 5-0 and climb to the #4 rank before losing to Texas 15-13. They would follow that loss with three straight wins before being upset by Texas A&M on the road 10-6. Arkansas would finish the season with a record of 10-2 after an 18-17 win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.
1986- Start 19th Finish 15th
Arkansas started 4-0 before being upset by Texas Tech 17-7. The Hogs would win their next five out of six to finish the regular season. Oklahoma would defeat Arkansas in the Orange Bowl 42-8 for the Hogs to finish with a 9-3 record.
1989- Start 10th Finish 13th
In Hatfield’s final season in Fayetteville, the Hogs would start 5-0 and reach #7 in the rankings. They would lose their only regular season game against Texas, 24-20. Arkansas would finish the season with five straight wins and a birth to the Cotton Bowl to take on Tennessee. The Vols would defeat the Hogs 31-27, and Arkansas would finish with a 10-2 season.
Hatfield would be fired by Frank Broyles and take the Clemson head coach position. Oddly enough, Hatfield would take over for soon-to-be Arkansas head coach Danny Ford, who coached from 1993-1997.
1992 – Arkansas Joins the SEC
After being in the Southwestern Conference since 1915, the Hogs switched to the Southeastern Conference. Broyles hired then Arkansas offensive coordinator Jack Crowe to lead the way into the new conference. Crowe would lose his opening game 10-3 to D3 The Citadel and immediately resign. Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines would take over and go 3-6-1.
1998-2007 Houston Nutt
Houston Nutt would become one of the most beloved coaches in Arkansas history. During his ten seasons, he would become just the third Razorbacks lead man to lead them to a bowl game in each of his first six seasons. He would finish with three SEC West crowns, eight bowl games, two bowl wins, four nine-win seasons, and three final national rankings.
1999- Start 22nd Finish 17th
Arkansas started the 1999 season 8-0 making the best start in program history. Following the eight consecutive, the Hogs would drop their next two games to Tennessee by a score of 28-24 and Mississippi State by 22-21. Arkansas would win the final match over LSU 41-14 in Little Rock and play Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Michigan would go on to win 45-31, yet this bowl marked Arkansas’s first Jan 1st game since the 1990 season. Arkansas finished 9-3 in year one under Nutt.
2007 – Nutt Final Season
Arkansas would finish 8-5 in what would be Houston Nutt last season in Fayetteville. The 2007 season was one of ups and downs for the Hogs after starting 3-3. Arkansas would then win five final six games, including a three-overtime thriller 50-48 win at LSU. Arkansas would lose to Missouri 28-7 in the Cotton Bowl to close the year.
Nutt went on to win the SEC Coach of the Year in the 2001 and 2006 seasons. He would finish his ten seasons with a 75-49 record in Fayetteville.
2008-2011 – Bobby Petrino
In 2008, Bobby Petrino came to Arkansas in the middle of the night. He was in Atlanta as the Falcons head coach one day, and the next, he was calling the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. After an opening season that saw Arkansas go 5-7, the bright spot of the season was a last-second 31-30 win against LSU had Hog fans excited for the future.
2010 – Start 17th Finish `12th
Arkansas was back in the rankings after a three-year drought at #17. The Hogs started 3-0 and went toe to toe with #1 Alabama in a 24-20 loss in the fourth game. After a 65-43 loss to Auburn in game six, Arkansas won six straight to end the season. They would climb to the #6 rank and be in the school’s only BCS game as they would take on Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The game would be back and forth, but Arkansas would lose 32-26 to finish with a 10-3 record.
2011 – Start 15th Finish 5th
In what is the school’s second-ever eleven-win season, Arkansas went 3-0 to start the season. The Hogs would lose to Alabama on the road, then sun off seven straight wins. Arkansas would fall to LSU on the road 41-17 in a battle between the #3 Hogs and #1 Tigers. Arkansas would take on Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl and come away with a 29-16 victory.
2011 would be the final year of the Petrino era in Fayetteville. In his four seasons, he finished with a 34-17 record.
2013-2017 – Bret Bielema
Bielema became the 32nd head coach in program history in 2013 after being with Wisconsin for the previous seven years. In 2013 the razorbacks went 3-9 with zero wins in conference play. In the 2014 season, the Hogs would finish 7-6 with wins over LSU, Ole Miss, and Texas in the Texas Bowl to finish the season.
Arkansas would start the 2015 season with a #18 rank, but with a week 16-12 loss to Toledo, they would drop out. The Hogs finished 8-5 and a 45-23win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.
Bielema would finish his career with Arkansas following the 2017 season. Arkansas would lose their final three games, including a 48-45 loss to Missouri to close the season.
2020 – Present – Sam Pittman
2022- Start 23 Finish?
Until this, the 2015 season was the last the Razorbacks were ranked preseason. In the third season, Sam Pittman has done what many thought he couldn’t do, and that’s start ranked. Can the Pittman Effect keep the smoke rolling in Fayetteville with the hogs back in the rankings? Based on the first two seasons and how this team has progressed, I would say the answer is yes. We will soon find out, with the season only a few weeks away.