Fayetteville, Ark. – The Arkansas Razorbacks will begin the season No. 10 in both the AP and USA Today Coaches’ Poll capping a five-team SEC domination of the preseason rankings.
Before the preseason polls were announced much speculation among college football fans centered on how the press and the Arkansas Razorback football team would respond after the dismissal of former head coach Bobby Petrino in April.
If Arkansas’ final fall scrimmage is any indication the Razorbacks will be a top 10 team again at the end of the 2012 college football season.
The way the SEC college football schedules line up the road to the SEC West Division Championship and NCAA BCS Championship one way or another will go through Fayetteville, Arkansas this season.
Depending how one counts returning starters, Arkansas returns a minimum of seven on offense and a minimum of seven on defense from an 11-2 team in 2011 that ended the season with a dominating performance over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.
Among the returning players includes 2011 SEC first-team quarterback Tyler Wilson and 2010 first-team running back Knile Davis, both are on the preseason Heisman Trophy Award watch list.
More importantly Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis will have an improved and veteran line protecting them in 2012. Look for the prolific Arkansas offense that finished 2011 as the No. 15 scoring team in the country to be that much better this season.
Arkansas’ defense is stacked full of veteran and raw talent with the great depth and ability on the defensive line’s two-deep chart. Expect solid secondary play from the Hogs with possible question marks at linebacker, especially if any injuries occur.
The Razorbacks 2012 schedule is tough but arguably much easier than their 2011 lineup. Tennessee and Vanderbilt are rolled off the schedule in place of Kentucky and new SEC West member Texas A&M.
Arkansas has taken care of business against A&M in the Southwest Classic over the past three years on a neutral field at Dallas Cowboy Stadium in Arlington. The Aggies get a chance for redemption at home in 2012.
Kentucky returns three starters on offense and five on defense off a team that finished 5-7, 26 in 2011.
Arkansas’ toughest non-conference opponent is a home game against Big East conference member Rutgers Sept. 22.
Rutgers Kyle Flood takes over as head football coach for Greg Schiano. Last season the Scarlet Knights had trouble running and throwing the ball. Entering fall camp a starting quarterback had not been named which was a problem under Schiano over the past 2-3 seasons.
Flood maybe the answer for Rutgers football in the future but their overall talent is no match for the Razorbacks this year.
The Hogs have what could be construed as back-to-back trap games again South Carolina and Mississippi State on the road Nov. 10 and 17. South Carolina hit the 11 win plateau in 2011 behind a stingy defense. Seven starters return plus true sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be turned loose. He will no longer have to split game time with Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor.
USC’s defense may be tough but the offense is highly questionable. Junior running back Marcus Lattimore is expected to be full strength for the 2012 season after blowing out his knee in game seven last year. As talented as Lattimore maybe he has not completed a full college football season in two years in Columbia. Coupled with trying to be 100 percent after a knee injury do not expect Lattimore to post 1,000 yards in 2012.
The focal point of the season may reside in two games for the Arkansas Razorbacks, much like last season. In 2011 Arkansas had to go on the road to play both Alabama and LSU. This year both SEC West rivals have to travel to Fayetteville.
LSU is getting a lot of attention because of overall parity in college football. They have recruited well under head coach Les Miles but must break in seven starters on defense and four on offense.
Tiger fans are hanging a lot of hope and expectations on quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger is a transfer via University of Georgia and Butler Community College. To date Mettenberger is a highly recruited quarterback that did not beat out Aaron Murray at Georgia.
LSU will run the ball and grind it out as they always do; the big question is will Mettenberger be able to provide the passing offense the Tigers need to win the tough games in conference?
Alabama is in a similar position as LSU, a lot of talent graduated or left early for the NFL after last year’s BCS National Championship win. How will the underclassmen respond to a full SEC season with three tough road games –Michigan, Arkansas, and LSU.
Nick Saban will have one of the best offensive lines in not only the SEC but the country to run behind. Other than returning starter AJ McCarron the Tide does not bring back much game experience on offense.
The defense has four starters returning from the top ranked defense in the country. True many of the new starters got quality time last year but how will they respond to a full season’s worth of learning offenses from one week to the next along with the physical toll of playing in the SEC?
Associated Press Top 25 Preseason Poll
- Florida State
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
- Michigan State
- Virginia Tech
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma State
- Kansas State
- Boise State