The Razorbacks lost Bobby Petrino but remain loaded in 2012. Al Dannity looks at the chances for Arkansas in the coming season.
The schedule It’s a smooth start for the Hogs through the first two games, with a cupcake at home against Jacksonville State followed by Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock. Business picks up promptly with the Tide rolling in to Fayetteville on September 15. There will be little time to recover from that huge game as Rutgers come to town a week later. The Hogs face back-to-back road tests in SEC play with trips to Texas A&M and Auburn before playing three straight at home against Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Tulsa. A pair of tough road games follow at South Carolina and Mississippi State before the regular season concludes with a home date against LSU.
The players Bobby Petrino is gone but he left the cupboard brimming with talent. Quarterback Tyler Wilson is the headline returnee of 7 offensive starters from last year. There are still doubts over the health of talented tail back Knile Davis but he looks set to join Dennis Johnson in one of the most explosive running tandems in the game. The Hogs are similarly stacked on defense, with 7 starters from 2011 back to take on the best in the nation. Crucially there’s solid depth of experience in all phases of defense, with experienced heads up front and in the secondary. Kicker Zack Hocker and punter Dylan Breeding are both returning starters.
The outlook The big warning sign for Arkansas is what happened the last time Petrino unexpectedly left a College Football job. Louisville looked stacked after losing their head coach to the Falcons but stuttered to a 6-6 finish. The Hogs have taken significant steps to avoid a similar fate. John L. Smith is the kind of steady hand needed to keep a team this talented moving in the right direction. He has experience as a head coach at the highest level and has worked with these players for three years as an assistant. Smith has the knowledge to succeed and the respect of those around him. What he does not have is the magic formula to beat LSU and Alabama. The Hogs have struggled greatly against Nick Saban but own a recent win over Les Miles and the Tigers. To win the SEC West they will need to beat both, to make it to the BCS they should make do with beating one. Talent is not lacking in Fayetteville but this still looks like a team more suited to being the best 9-3 or 10-2 team in the nation.
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