Bielema discusses non-conference schedule, new quarterback and the Razorback's path to the SEC Championship Game

Tyler Waldrep

Opening the season 1-3 isn’t the kind of start head coaches dream about, but for the second year in a row coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks looked like a team nobody wanted to play by the end of last season when it finished 8-5.

“At Arkansas we’re not built very sexy, we’re just kind of a work in progress,” Bielema said. “We need a lot of time in the bathroom to get ready and come out and look great. But when we do, we’ll stop time. And at some point we’ll get to where we want to be. And when we get there, it just means a little bit more.”

Where Bielema wants to be is sitting in Atlanta with his team on Dec. 3 for the SEC Championship Game. What his team needs is to hit its stride earlier in the season.

Non-conference games won’t keep the Razorbacks out of Atlanta, but Bielema’s teams will be tested before getting into conference play. Arkansas opens against a Louisiana Tech team that won nine games in 2015 then hits the road to take on TCU which won even more.

“AD had a nice idea to throw TCU into the mix before we taken on the SEC West,” Bielema said. “One hell of an idea. So I’m very excited about seeing Coach [Gary] Patterson. I see him once a year on a Nike trip. That’s good enough for me. I don’t really want to play him. [But] That’s what we’re going to do.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge the Razorback offense will have to overcome is the transition from Brandon Allen to his younger brother Austin, but Bielema is confident his new quarterback is up for the task.

Bielema credited his new quarterback with a nice long ball and an aggressive personality. That combination could hurt Arkansas in the long run, but the Razorback coach isn’t the only one praising the new quarterback.

“He went to the Manning Passing Academy, and Archie shot me a text a day or two later saying he’s one of the more impressive players there,” Bielema said. “Which I think got me excited. I think Archie knows a few things about QBs.”

But Bielema isn’t expecting miracles from the quarterback position. With three of four starting defensive linemen returning he hopes he doesn’t need them.

“Alabama, there’s not a team since I’ve been in the game in coaching that plays as good a defense year in and year out as good as they do,” Bielema said. “And it’s a reason why they won as many championships. It doesn’t matter what you do on offense. If you don’t want to score a lot of points, it doesn’t matter… [In 2014] we lose a 13-14 game right there in Fayetteville.”

The Razorback fans will get a chance to see their team avenge that loss when the Crimson Tide travels to Fayetteville on Oct. 8. If Bielema’s team can make it out of the bathroom before then he might be able to book his flight to Atlanta after all.

“[We] led Alabama at half and couldn’t close it out [last year],” Bielema said. “I realized we’re getting really close to where we want to be.”