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Arkansas caps season ranked in polls

by Tom Murphy | January 12, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks made a little more recent history on Tuesday after being ranked No. 21 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll of the season.

The University of Arkansas was ranked in the final poll for the first time since the 2011 team went 11-2, downed Kansas State 29-16 in the Cotton Bowl and wound up at No. 5.

Second-year Coach Sam Pittman guided the Razorbacks to a 9-4 finish, their highest win total since the 2011 team, and a 24-10 victory in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

Arkansas rose only one spot in the final poll and was passed by conference rival Kentucky (10-3), which jumped from No. 25 to No. 18 after edging past Iowa 20-17 in the Citrus Bowl. The Razorbacks enjoyed a bigger jump, moving up four spots to No. 20 in the final USA Today Coaches Poll of the season, also released on Tuesday.

Arkansas and Kentucky are among five SEC teams in the final AP poll, joining College Football Playoff champion Georgia at No. 1, CFP runner-up Alabama at No. 2, and No. 11 Ole Miss. Georgia downed the Crimson Tide 33-18 in Monday night’s championship game to claim its first national championship since 1980. Texas A&M, who joined Georgia as the only team to defeat Alabama this season, finished just outside the rankings as the first team also receiving votes.

The final coaches poll included six SEC teams in No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Alabama, No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 15 Kentucky, No. 20 Arkansas and No. 25 Texas A&M.

Arkansas has been ranked in the final AP poll 29 times dating to 1936.

The Razorbacks have already begun garnering attention for next season in early top 25 projections.

The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel slotted Arkansas at No. 17 on his early projection Tuesday, writing “Sam Pittman looks to continue momentum behind QB KJ Jefferson, a deep running back room and four O-line starters.”

SI.com’s Pat Forde had the Razorbacks at No. 14 in his projection late Monday, writing “If Sam Pittman keeps this program on its current growth curve, the Razorbacks could finish even higher,” though he warns the rugged schedule could be a problem.

Forde listed six SEC teams in his projection, with 1 Alabama, 3 Georgia, 6 Texas A&M, 16 Tennessee, and 21 Kentucky joining the Razorbacks.

ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach had Arkansas at No. 20 in his 2022 projection, joining 1 Alabama, 3 Georgia, 4 Texas A&M, 21 Kentucky, 23 Ole Miss and 25 South Carolina as the seven SEC teams.

Mandel’s projection looked similar, with 1 Alabama, 3 Georgia, 6 Texas. A&M, 13 Tennessee and 21 Kentucky joining the Razorbacks and Ole Miss, LSU and Mississippi State joining BYU and Coastal Carolina in his “just missed” category.

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