2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2 in SEC)
Head Coach: John L Smith (132-86 All-Time; 22-26 at last HC Job)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 season Cotton Bowl: beat Kansas State 29-16
Revenge: 9/15 vs Alabama, 11/23 vs LSU
Stats to Cheer: had 217 plays of 10 or more yards and 34 plays of 30 or more yards in 2011 (1st in SEC); led the SEC in scoring offense at 36.8 ppg
Stat to Fear: allowed 13 plays of 40 or more yards in 2011 (10th in SEC)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 7; Defense: 6; Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Alonzo Highsmith (80 tackles, 4.5 sacks), S Eric Bennett (74 tackles, 3 INT), CB Tevin Mitchel (56 tackles), DT Byran Jones (47 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Tyler Wilson (24 TD, 6 INT), RB Knile Davis (1322 yds rush, 13 TD in 2010), RB Dennis Johnson (670 yds rush), RB Ronnie Wingo (458 yds rush), WR Cobi Hamilton (34 rec), TE Chris Gragg (41 rec)
CFBZ: The Bobby Petrino scandal is behind the Hogs and they have moved forward with John L Smith. What are your thoughts on the hire now that Smith has been on campus for a few months.
Bearly Doug: The University of Arkansas Athletic Department and Razorback football team may have moved on with Coach Smith, but some fans (myself, to a small extent) are still annoyed about the entire Harley-gate fiasco.
That being said, Coach Smith has done a great job of being the face of the Razorbacks while allowing the two Pauls (Haynes and Petrino) to run the defense and offense (respectively) in a manner they're accustomed to.
We saw what Coach Haynes was able to do with only 30 days prior to the Cotton Bowl (effectively shut down KSU's offense; a lot more aggressive defense while not getting crazy with penalties). From the practice reports I've seen, the defense is much hungrier, aggressive and has been emphasizing stopping the ball from crossing the LOS. The defense has been slightly problematic in the past by not being more aggressive when the ball is snapped. I can't wait to see what Coach Haynes can do with a full Spring and Fall practice under his belt with our boys this year.
CFBZ: Arkansas lost three big-time senior WRs this off-season and now they have had some off field issues and lost two more (one that was a projected starter). Outside of Cobi Hamilton, who do you see stepping up at receiver for the Hogs this season?
Bearly Doug: We've actually been experimenting with Brandon Mitchell (QB) at wide receiver and he's done a pretty decent job. We're still finalizing the WR corps, but Keon Hatcher and Mekale McKay are distancing themselves from the rest of the pack right now. Both Hatcher and McKay are true freshmen that should be in place firmly by the Alabama game (Sept 15th, Week 3).
There may be a slight drop off initially for the first couple games while the o-line finishes getting its starters into place, but then again, that's what cupcake games are for.
CFBZ: Who are some key players that need to step up for Paul Haynes on the defensive side of the football?
Bearly Doug: Otha Peters was committed to Tennessee, I believe, for the longest time and we managed to flip him a week or two before signing day. He's really stepped it up and should be a true frosh starter this year. Alonzo Highsmith and Mitch Smothers are the most experienced of all defensive guys, so they need to both step up their leadership roles and guide the newer Hogs. Austin Flynn is a new Hog... and will be the epitome of a Razorback. Flynn is an absolute BEAST. Darius Philon (asked to greyshirt by Nick Saban at Alabama) was a last minute flip over to Arkansas. He may or may not redshirt this year, but if he doesn't, expect him to be in the game against Alabama. Hog fans immediately rallied around him when he flipped.
One of the biggest disappointments for our D is LB Vin Ascolese not being able to make it onto Campus (NCAA Clearinghouse issues). He's still committed to the Hogs but will enroll in January so he can participate in Spring drills, which would allow him to play immediately in Fall 2013. Many Hog fans, myself included, were absolutely crushed to hear that he wouldn't be on the team this year. Vin is a head hunter in the purest form.
One of the advantages that the entire defense has this year is that we have the same person who's defense shut down Ryan Mallett and the Hogs at the 2010-11 Sugar Bowl. One of coach Haynes players, Cameron Heyward was an absolute beast/head hunter and effectively forced the Hogs to play 2-3 people against Heyward to try to shut him down (unsuccessfully). We're now in the position of having a couple of our own headhunters now with SEC speed and size. We'll see how this plays out.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Bearly Doug: The road to the BCS NCG starts with the SEC West. While I highly doubt that we'll see an SEC vs SEC rematch this year, there will be another SEC team at the BCS NCG. Whether it's Alabama, Arkansas or LSU remains to be seen.
Records are ON FIELD and do not factor in forfeits and vacated games.
Records are entire series (conference records).
2012-09-01 Jacksonville State 0-0-0
First meeting. While I don't expect JSU to sneak another win against an SEC team (Ole Miss vs JSU), I expect JSU to give it their all. We should win this handily.
2012-09-08 ULM 9-0-0
ULM is overdue for a win, but it won't be this year. Especially since the game is at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, AR.
2012-09-15 Alabama 7-15-0 (7-13-0)
First of my "Oh, Lordy, please WIN!" (OLPW) games. This is quite possibly the most pivotal game of the year. This is the conference game opener for both teams. Alabama is facing a very solid Michigan team for its first game at Cowboys Stadium. The winner of this game should dictate who will appear at the SEC Championship Game representing the SEC West and quite possibly who goes onto the BCS NCG and who goes to the Sugar Bowl. The Hogs have lost the last 5 of 6 (Hogs are 1-2 against the Crimson Tide at Fayetteville) and are looking to stop the losing streak. This game should be decided by seven points or less. I think the Hogs surprise the nation and holds Alabama to less than 22 points (Hogs have a better chance of winning when the Tide are held to less than 24 points, 5-7 in these games). I'm giving the edge to the Hogs simply for the fact that they have a huge statement to make this year.
2012-09-22 Rutgers 0-0-0
First meeting for both schools. I think this game has a lot more implications than just being a marquee OOC game for both schools. Hogs should win this one by at least two touchdowns
2012-09-29 at Texas AM 41-24-3 (37-22-3)
Last year's game was a nail biter through the first half in Dallas. The Razorbacks are making their first return to College Station since leaving the SWC after the 1991 season and leads the series 17-14-1 at CS. The Aggies are not only making the jump from the Big 12 to the SEC, they're doing it with a new coach. I think the Hogs continue their winning record, but it WILL be a hard fought battle.
2012-10-06 at Auburn 9-11-1 (9-10-1)
We make our return to Auburn looking for payback from the 2010 game against the 2010-11 BCS NCG Champions. Hogs are 4-5-1 at Auburn and should easily even up the series. Auburn has too much instability with their coaching staff and they've lost a few heavy key playmakers that were absolutely brutal on the Hogs in 2010. Hogs should be able to easily make quick work of the Tigers².
012-10-13 Kentucky 2-4-0 (2-4-0)
Surprisingly, even though it's Kentucky, the Hogs have traditionally had issues against the Wildcats. This is the second of my three OLPW games. The Razorbacks have NEVER beaten Kentucky in Fayetteville (0-2). If Kentucky can stay healthy, they have a chance to give the Hogs a scare. I think we'll come away with a win, but it won't be impressive. NOTE: With the Conference Schedule shakeups, this was actually supposed to be Tennessee's game in Knoxville.
2012-10-27 Ole Miss 31-26-1 (12-8-0)
Hogs lead series 8-2 at Fayetteville. Even though the Ole Miss Rebels have a new coach, I don't think Coach Freeze will have everything in place to recover from a brutal SEC West schedule (at Bama, Aggies, Auburn and then at Fayetteville). We should easily dispatch of the Black Bears like they were yesterday's news.
2012-11-03 Tulsa 52-16-3
39-6-0 record at Fayetteville... No Todd Graham, no Gus Malzahn. Tulsa hasn't beat the Hogs since 1976. Why is this even a question mark? The win streak continues.
2012-11-10 at South Carolina 13-7-0 (13-7-0)
The third and final OLPW game. Series is tied at 5-5 in Columbia, SC. Much like Alabama's had our number, we've had SC's number for quite some time. The difference this year, though, is the fact that SC has been on a VERY solid rise the past couple years. Steve Spurrier is slowly working towards claiming another national championship. Last year, he came damn close, losing only to Auburn and Arkansas. I think the Hogs will escape with a close win, 10 points or less.
2012-11-17 at Mississippi State 15-6-1 (15-4-1)
Starkville hasn't always been kind to the Hogs (6-4). The last time we were there, Dan Mullen's Bulldogs took the Hogs into overtime, only to lose 28-31. Ironically, that was also the score for the 2008 game in Starkville (which the Bulldogs won). It's always a hard fought battle in Cow Bell Stadium. I expect the Hogs to re-start their win streak at Starkville (last one was 4 games; 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006).
2012-11-23 LSU 20-35-2 (8-12-0)
LSU returns to Fayetteville for the first time since the Hogs inaugural SEC season in 1992 (Hogs won that game 30-6). Since 2008, the Home team has won the game, however, since 2008, the wins have alternated equally between LSU and the Hogs. Based on those two historical facts, the Hogs should win this one. Of course, it doesn't hurt the Hogs any that Tyrann Matthieu is not on the team, and the simple fact that the players are looking for retribution for last year's game... the first game we played without Garrett Uekman, who passed away the Sunday before the game. LSU's player and coaching antics left a streaming, burning hole that the Hogs are looking to extinguish. There is absolutely NO way that LSU will escape Fayetteville with a win this year. Karma, LSU Tigers, is an absolute b*tch, and you're going to get yours this year.
The players have rallied together as a family with the Harley-gate fiasco. We retained ALL coaches for this year, so no one will have to learn a new system (not completely... I'm sure that Coach Paul Petrino has made some adjustments, but he IS a Petrino... I doubt those adjustments are going to negatively impact the team).
Final records: Realistic Scenario: 9-3 or 10-2 (regular season)
There's a very good chance that if the Hogs beat Alabama that they will run the table and have a 14-0 season and a first ever BCS NCG appearance.
Source for all Statistics above: GridironHistory.com
Under Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks were on a quick ascent to the top of the SEC West. The only thing holding them back was the dominance of Alabama and LSU and a special year for Auburn. This off-season, the Petrino scandal has tempered expectations in Fayetteville, at least for those who reside outside of Razorback country.
Arkansas had the best offense in the SEC last year and that should continue this year. Tyler Wilson returns for his senior season and he was very good last year. Arkansas also returns one of the best backfields in the Nation. Last year Knile Davis got hurt but Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo filled in admirably. This year, all three guys are back and if Davis gets back into his pre-injury groove, Arkansas will be very dangerous. The Hogs do lose some very good receivers (Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs) and initially it may set the offense back a bit as new guys step up. While Arkansas doesn't have the bevy of receivers it had last year it does have good players at the position and also is strong at the tight end position and has two RBs that are very good at catching the football out of the backfield. The Hogs should continue to roll on offense but the difference between a great and elite season is if they can roll against Bama and LSU.
The defense holds the key to the Razorbacks season. In the SEC, defense wins championships and the Arkansas defense hasn't measured up to the elite teams. This defense loses a lot of talent from last years squad (Jerry Franklin, Tramain Thomas, Jerico Nelson and Jake Bequette). They lose their top two tacklers and three of their top five. They also lose Jake Bequette who was really the only defensive line threat to get after the QB. Paul Haynes has his work cut out for him. There is talent on the Arkansas defense but it's not an embarrassment of riches like at Bama or LSU. Haynes must get the most out of the talent on this squad and if he can do that then the Razorbacks can challenge the "big two".
Arkansas is very capable of winning the conference but they have yet to prove they can jump that hurdle. Offensively, this might be the best group of talent the Razorbacks have had in quite some time. It was mentioned in the Q&A that the Bama game would dictate the SEC race and it just might. Can Arkansas catch a re-loading Bama defense before they have a chance to settle into their roles? Arkansas might have caught a break with the early scheduling of that game this season. That said, I still see this team as the third best squad in the West. In any other conference it's possible they could be the best or second best team but in this division of seven teams I have them third until they prove they can beat the champs.
Top 25 Countdown
#12 Michigan State
#14 Kansas State
#16 Virginia Tech
#17 Boise State
#19 Ohio State
#23 Oklahoma State
Previous 2012 Previews: