Sup. I’m doing a thing, and I’m making it everyone’s problem. Come join me.
Welcome to the first of who knows how many weekly blog posts I’m going to try to do about the 2021-22 College Football season. There will be at least one, but I have a very short attention span, so this could flame out before we even see the first snap of the year.
Or, I might become so obsessed that I’m doing 14-21 posts per week about how UTEP’s offensive line will only go as far as Darta Lee can lead them, or how Eastern Michigan’s Jake Julien has what it takes to be 2021’s breakout punter in the MAC.
It’ll probably be closer to the former, but whatever.
Chase’s Spicy Takes For The Preseason
Table of Contents
Page One: Intro
Page Two: Arkansas State Thoughts/Preview
Page Three: Arkansas Thoughts/Preview
Page Four: Hot Takes/Week One Predictions
What This Is and Why I’m Doing It
It’s been a long time since I’ve talked college football. The last game I attended/covered was the 2019 Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.
Since then I’ve lost a ton of weight (and gained some of it back), accepted my insanely premature hair loss and turned to a shaved/buzzed head look, graduated college during a pandemic, gotten a new tattoo, rescued a dog, and got a real job in the news industry. I’m sure two or three other things have happened, but I can’t even remember what was for breakfast, let alone the entire scope of the past 20 months.
I had a hard time enjoying college football last year. Sure, it was entertaining when games happened. There were some fun moments:
- Watching Jay Adams murder all of Manhattan, Kansas for Arkansas State’s first P5 win since Texas A&M in 2008 was great.
- Watching the Arkansas secondary catching every single ball Matt Corral threw for 60 minutes was entertaining as hell.
- Any time I can watch Notre Dame embarrass themselves on national tv, I’m having a great time.
- Texas not being back is ALWAYS fun.
But those fun moments felt as empty as the stands. At any moment, a game or season could be canceled. Fielding teams with 32 active players sucked. It felt like the entire season was one big crapshoot of “well, we’ve gotta have our footbawl”, and it never felt right. That’s not to say I’m not thankful the season happened, just to point out it felt…strange, at best.
When it came to my teams (yeah, plural), it was hard to get excited at times.
For Arkansas State, the overall experience of Red Wolves football had long become stagnant. If it were a normal year, we would expect seven or eight wins and a bowl loss. Substitute a bowl win for a six- or seven-win season. Rinse and repeat.
For Arkansas, there was some hope, but a schedule of 10 SEC games in the wake of what felt like a 70-game losing streak in the conference didn’t seem too enticing. It went better than expected, but it was still brutal at times. It’s hard to get excited about playing a different Top 10 team every week coming off a 4-20 two-year stretch.
Now, though? The prospect of a 12-game season under two new regimes in the state sounds FUN.
Butch Jones brings some intrigue back to Jonesboro. For the first time since, like, 2009(ish?) I have NO idea what to expect from the Red Wolves this season. They could go 0-12 or 12-0 and I don’t know which is more likely.
Sam Pittman will have Arkansas in a better place this season than Chad Morris could. ever dream of. If they improve as much from 2020 to 2021 as they did from 2019 to 2020, they’ll win the national championship. They won’t get that much better, of course, but far be it from me to be extremely hyperbolic at least once per paragraph. Who would do something like that?
Either way, both teams will be interesting to watch this year. I’m trying to get back into it. It’s been a struggle, but I think I’ve found out what makes the sport extra special for me.
Writing about it.
I miss it. So I guess I’ll just put this domain to use so I won’t miss it anymore. To quote Michael Jordan, “I’m back.” Also to quote Michael Jordan, “I ate the whole pizza.” That doesn’t have to do with this writing, but it does have to do with me gaining some of the weight back.
Enjoy this writeup, or else.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves are playing football this year, per source. Here is what I think about them.
Just so you know how much of an expert I am, I covered the team semi-professionally for TWO WHOLE SEASONS. Who else can say something like that? I am THE authority, and if anyone tells you otherwise, it’s because they’re a hater.
Arkansas State Red Wolves Could be in for a Howl of a Year…Or Not
Let’s do a quick list of thoughts I have on the Red Wolves:
- Last year, the defense couldn’t have been worse if they only fielded fourth graders.
- There are so many QBs that I don’t even know them all yet.
- If you didn’t know Butch Jones’ name and only saw a picture of him, you would guess his name is “Butch Jones”.
- I tried this, actually, and my roommate actually guessed his name was Butch. Not even kidding. I’ll give you his number and he’ll back my story up.
- It seems that Jones takes preparation to a different level than Blake Anderson did. Honestly, that isn’t *that* surprising. No hate towards Blake, but the team often seemed unprepared and undisciplined. Those two things will change this year.
- They have a howl of a home slate this year, but most will be uphill battles.
- If I had to guess where they’ll finish without doing any research, I’d guess second in the West, just like every year.
- I really don’t want to lose to South Alabama or Texas State again. Or UCA. Please.
That sums up my sporadic thoughts about this year’s team, but let’s dive a little deeper. I think this season’s schedule is a good place to start. In my eyes, it can be divided into four subsets:
Let’s break these down more, because though this graphic is beautiful, it’s not flawless. I’m just a sucker for symmetry and 12 divided by four was too good to pass up. I’ll elaborate.
You Better Win: In this section, I’ve included teams that the Red Wolves should only lose to in the worst years. That’s not a stab at any of these teams necessarily, but for A-State to be taken seriously, these need to be three wins. Realistically, you could add South Alabama here, too, but they’ve got a knack for beating the Red Wolves recently, so they get the edge. With ULM being the only road game here, there’s no excuse to go any less than 3-0 against this tier.
Win to Avoid a Bad Year: Going back to USA, if the Red Wolves win that one, no one will be celebrating in the streets. However, if you lose that game, the season will be in trouble. As for the Georgia teams, they feel like toss-ups this year. If the Red Wolves drop both, they don’t have much hope against the higher tiers. But snag one win out of the two and finish this block at least 2-1 and you’re looking at five or six wins on the year already. That’s a decent season under a new coach.
Hey, we Might Be Good: I forgot to capitalize “we” but it’s too much work to go back and edit the graphic, re-download, re-upload, etc. so I’m keeping it. Anyway. This tier also bleeds into the highest tier, but has teams that aren’t starting out the year with as much hype. Memphis and App State both come to Jonesboro — which is good — but they’ll be tough matchups. Tulsa could be the most likely win here, but A-State has a history of struggles away from Centennial Bank Stadium. They won in Tulsa in 2018, but we’ll see if they can do it again. One win here would be good. Two would be great. Three would be phenomenal. I don’t know that they get more than one, though, if they get that many.
Let’s Look for the Positives: All three of these teams are ranked in the preseason Top 25, as useless as that metric is. However, they’re there for good reason. Coastal and Louisiana dominated the Sun Belt and the Big 12 last year, and were two of the best teams in the entire country, let alone the G5 or Sun Belt. Very few teams will beat them this year. Then throw in a road trip to the West Coast to take on what should be a pretty decent Washington squad, and you’ve got three likely losses here. However, winning at least one of these in an upset would leave a lasting impact on the new era of Red Wolves football.
I haven’t covered the team since Omar Bayless suited up for his final game. I did watch last season, but it was rough. I say that, though, to say I’m a little out of the loop. This isn’t so much of a “dude who knows his stuff telling me what I need to know” and more of a “this dude is pretty weird and his writing is entertaining, I wonder what he has to say” thing.
With all THAT being said, I don’t really know what to think of the 2021 roster, coaching staff, etc. that I haven’t already said.
The defense has to improve a LOT if the Red Wolves want to even pretend to compete in 2021. Last season, it seemed as if the offense could score every single drive and the team would still find a way to lose by 14. That can’t happen this year. The Sun Belt is simply too good to throw a 4A-3 (that’s the high school conference I played in, by the way) junior varsity defense out there.
As for the impending QB battle, that’ll be interesting. No one works harder than Layne Hatcher, but incoming competitor James Blackmon from Florida State didn’t come to Jonesboro to ride the pine. If I had to guess the starter — without going to a single practice or anything — I would go with Hatcher. He has a leg up having spent last season under offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf, and the spot will likely be seen as his to lose.
As long as Butch Jones doesn’t roll out a horrid two-QB system, though, I’ll be happy. Let’s never do that again.
Final Thoughts and Predictions
It’ll be a fun year. Worst case, they aren’t that good but we get a preview of things to come in the Jones era. Best case, they take a leap and compete for the Sun Belt title again.
I don’t see them beating Louisiana, Coastal, or App State just yet. If they can find a way to steal one of those (all three are at home, so it’s possible), they’ll have an impressive season. I do, however, expect them to win most of their other Sun Belt matchups, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose to a team they shouldn’t lose to.
The worst part is that every tough game is at home and the games they should win or at least compete in happen to be on the road, making them a bit tougher. It’s not unrealistic for them to go 2-4 at home this year, if not worse. It’s hard to win on the road, and they might need three or four road wins to reach a bowl game.
I think they can do it, though. Wins against UCA, Texas State, South Alabama, ULM, and two of Tulsa/Memphis/Georgia State/Georgia Southern is very possible. I expect a 6-6 or 7-5 season with a trip to a bowl game in Jones’ first year. Then, expect a leap in year two.
But what do I know?
I finally watched a Razorback game with an ounce of happiness last season. I couldn’t tell you the last time that was true. I don’t remember much of the past 9 or so years of Hog football — I think there was a traffic accident, a fat guy, and a snake oil salesman or something like that — for good reason. (Oh! And that guy that loved to smile. I hope he’s still chipper.) Last year, though, a competent football team took the field and won three games against an absolute gauntlet of a schedule. Realistically, they should have won at least five games, if not six. Now, they’re poised for a leap in year two under Sam “Jukebox Turn-Upper” Pittman.
Seriously, though, Razorback fans really need to just appreciate this upcoming season as one that’s hopeful, and if the team “only” wins six or so games, that’s an overwhelming positive. Don’t take it for granted the way we took those 8-10 win seasons for granted from the late 90’s through the earliest Bert years.
High on the Hogs, or High on my Own Supply?
So here’s this. Like my Arkansas State one, it’s not perfect, but when you have a chance to do a 4×4 chart, you take that opportunity. Let’s take a deeper look:
Chad Goes 0-3 Here: But like, honestly. How many games does Chad win here? Maybe UAPB (make sure to check out their band, they’re phenomenal)? Pittman needs three wins here, and he’ll likely get them. Preparation and talent alone will win these, and those are two things Pittman does/has that his predecessor didn’t. Win all three and they’re halfway to a bowl game.
Back to Normal?: Growing up, I always expected wins over the Mississippi teams, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt/Kentucky if either was on the schedule that season. For this year, though, I’ll sub out Ole Miss for Auburn and throw Mizzou in there for South Carolina. Win those three and it will feel like we’re “back to normal” in a sense. I put Auburn here because I have no faith they’ll be better under Bryan Harsin. The last time he took over a Gus Malzahn squad, they got worse. And I just don’t think he’s that great of a coach. Plus, I dislike Auburn. So *raspberry noise* to them. Also, Arkansas has to break the Mizzou curse this year. It sucks losing to such an awful program every year. Time to fix that. A 14-1 season with an SEC title and National Championship would feel empty with a loss to that team.
Sam Pittman is for REAL: If the Hogs can secure at least four or five wins through the first two tiers, this one will make all the difference in the season. The Razorbacks beat Ole Miss last year and should have beaten LSU as well, but they won’t be easy wins this season. Both squads should be improved, though I’m honestly not sure how great they’ll be. I have more faith in Ole Miss under Kiffin than I do in LSU re-creating the magic of their 2019 run, but it’s not hard to imagine both being 8- or 9-win teams. They need to win at least one for it to be a solid year. Two wins, and it’s a pretty damn good year. Then, there’s the other team.
Tuck Fexas: They get their own heading here. Arkansas should curb stomp those piss babies from Austin. Going 1-11 but beating Texas is a successful season. Beating the brakes off of them and then winning six or seven other games will make for the best season since 2011. This is a must-win, just for the sake of ending the mediocrity and creating a passionate fanbase once again.
Let’s Look for the Positives: Okay, so let’s be optimistic and say Pittman earns seven or eight wins in the lower three tiers. That only allows for one or two losses, which is already a bit of stretch, but let’s say he gets there. That’s already a great season. But then, any wins in this column make it an ELITE season. In reality, Arkansas almost certainly goes 0-3 here with TAMU being the best chance at keeping it close, but we can hope, right? If the Hogs can win more than one in this column, they’re a top-10 team in the country at seasons’ end.
Thoughts and Predictions:
I don’t really have much insight on this team. I have no idea what to expect. I’ve got a really good feeling they’ll be ultra competitive, but that won’t necessarily result in a ton of wins. I think they’ll be good enough to make a bowl game. I think they’ll win one they’re not supposed to (Texas, if all things go well), but might drop one they shouldn’t (perhaps Mizzou or a Mississippi school). Overall, this is a year of growth and establishment. Anything beyond a winning record and bowl appearance is icing on the cake.
Could there be a perfect storm brewing? Maybe. The Hogs could break out and win nine or ten games. It’s possible. Or, they could moderately improve over years past and have a really good year that’s fun to watch. I’ll be fine with either result.
Picks and Hot Takes:
Sun Belt Heat:
- The Citadel at 22 Coastal Carolina (-34.5): I like the Beach Chickens in this one, but do they cover that spread? Probably.
- East Carolina at App State (-10.0): Mountaineers make it 2-0 Sun Belt
- ULM at Kentucky (-31.0): Wildcats spoil the fun.
- Army at Georgia State (-2.0): I think this could be a really good game. I’ll take the Panthers at home.
- 23 Louisiana at 21 Texas (-8.0): I legitimately believe Louisiana can win this game, and my hatred for Texas makes me a little more confident that they actually will. Go Cajuns, I guess.
- Gardner-Webb at Georgia Southern: I shan’t pick against the Sun Belt here, go Southern.
- Baylor (-13.5) at Texas State: Wait, is this one really in San Marcos? That’s super cool. Bears win on the road, but still super cool.
- Central Arkansas at Arkansas State: Please, please, please. Please? Arkansas State.
- Southern at Troy: If you’re going to play it safe, always pick the Trojans.
- Southern Miss at South Alabama (-1.0): One of the most intriguing matchups of the week. You know, strange things happen in Mobile. I’m going with South over Southern.
SEC! SEC! SEC!
- Bowling Green at Tennessee (-35.0): Vols. No need to elaborate.
- Rice at Arkansas (-19.5): Hogs cover.
- 1 Alabama (-19.5) vs 14 Miami: Did you know D’Eriq King is older than Tua? Anyway, Bama by a lot.
- Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State (-23.0): Dawgs.
- C Michigan at Missouri (-14.0): Cats.
- Akron at Auburn (-36.5): Kittens.
- E Illinois at South Carolina: Okay, did you know an assistant coach is playing QB for South Carolina? Bet the HOUSE on the Gamecocks. You don’t roll out a story like that and lose a home opener.
- 5 Georgia vs 3 Clemson (-3.0): I don’t think Georgia can win the big ones. Clemson kills the perfect SEC weekend.
- FAU at 13 Florida (-23.5): Gators.
- Kent State at 6 Texas A&M (-28.5): Aggies.
- ETSU at Vanderbilt: If you watch this one, I admire your dedication. Vandy wins.
- 16 LSU (-3.0) at UCLA: Go Tigahs.
- Louisville at Ole Miss (-10.0): The Rebel Black Bear Land Sharks win.
Other Top Games
- Boise State at UCF (-5.0): Probably the two best programs in the Group of Five’s history facing off on Thursday of opening week? Sign me up. No way those blue horses are winning in the Bounce House. Go Knights.
- 19 Penn State at 12 Wisconsin (-5.5): I want to believe in Penn State, but last year they were a major disappointment. I’ll take the Badgers.
- 17 Indiana at 18 Iowa (-3.0): Can Indiana keep their hot streak going? I hope so. Go Hoosiers.
- 9 Notre Dame at Florida State: I really dislike both teams. If McKenzie Milton is playing, I’ll have a rooting interest in the Seminoles, but I don’t see them winning this one. Irish, I guess.
Upset of the Week: Louisiana over Texas
Even though this would barely qualify as an upset, it’ll wake those up that aren’t paying attention to Lafayette, Louisiana. If this game wasn’t in Austin, I think the Cajuns would be a 1-point favorite. They’re the real deal, and they’re going to beat the Longhorns, yet somehow will finish the year ranked below them even though the Cajuns will be roughly 11-1 and Texas will be 8-5 at best. Whatever.
Who Cares? Game of the Week: Bethune-Cookman vs UTEP
Literally, I cannot find a single reason to watch this game if you’re not a diehard fan of either team. If someone can come up with ONE good reason (other than “it’s college football!”) I will admit how wrong I was and post it next week. Let’s go Cookman. FPI gives them a 4.3% chance in this one and I love a good upset in a game no one will ever hear about again.
That’s all for now. I scraped a lot of this because I didn’t feel like going any more in-depth with preview stuff. You can get that anywhere. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back with a Week One Review/Week Two Preview and more picks next week. Stay weird.
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