In 2011, the Arkansas Razorbacks will be an entirely different football team. Strengths and weaknesses have changed. Is it for the better? We will find out soon enough as the season draws near.
This season, offense may be the bigger question mark than defense. The biggest impact players this year include the stable of RBs and WRs that are drowning the depth chart with speed and power. However, the most important positions on offense have major changes. Ryan Mallett is gone and more importantly, a hefty amount of offensive lineman are gone. Expect experience issues with the offense in the beginning.
I am expecting a TON of dink and dunk passes to highly-utilize the speed of our WR corp and RB trio. With an offensive line that is inexperienced working together, deep passes may be missing this year.
Arkansas has THE BEST WR corps in THE NATION. No questions asked. All starters have posted better than a 4.5 40 time and have at least 600 receiving yards. Every single WR returns this year with additions from Quinta Funderburk and Marquel Wade, just to name a few.
As for our running game, every single RB returns this season. Dennis Johnson will once again lead the charge at the beginning of this season after Knile Davis was knocked out for the season with an ankle injury. Ronnie Wingo will back up DJ while DeAnthony Curtis has been spotted taking touches after being moved to CB this offseason. In order to sustain our BCS opportunities, our rushing game must step up to the void left by Knile.
Would you believe that a Petrino-led team has a better defense than offense? That may be the case this year. Defense returns 8 starters this year including Jerry Franklin, Tramain Thomas and Jake Bequette. Watch for a defense that is still very opportunistic, but will get the job done this year for the offense.
This year, I will be giving our fans a game-by-game breakdown of what I expect to happen. Last year, I was able to give the correct prediction for our Road to the Sugar Bowl (I joke with my dad that he had 3 years to buy tickets due to my predictions). I even predicted the correct losses (Alabama and Auburn) as well as confidently suggested the score of the LSU game (predicted 31-24).
Missouri State (Sept 3rd)
Missouri State has been picked to finish last in the MVFC preseason poll, the first time in 23 years. This will probably be the worst Missouri State team that Arkansas has faced. Arkansas holds a perfect record of 6-0 against the Bears.
This will be a great starting point for the offense to begin meshing together. I expect a struggling Oline to show plenty of mistakes, but overall grow as athletes. The defense should be the shining spot of this game. Hopefully, they will be providing plenty of turnovers and pressure as they have shown in the past.
Update: Missouri State QB Trevor Woodson was suspended for game.
“Trevor made a poor decision during the spring by breaking a team rule which will affect his availability for our opener,” Bears Coach Terry Allen said. “I’m very disappointed by the situation, but I think it is in the best interest of our program to announce our decision at this time and move forward in our preparation for the Arkansas game. There are consequences for breaking rules, and I hope and believe that Trevor will learn from his mistake and become a better person because of this.”
Arkansas 49, Missouri State 14
New Mexico* (Sept 10th)
The Lobos have been serving a 3-year NCAA probation and have not averaged more than 1 win a season. They were actually ranked 24th in kickoff returns last year with an average of 23.5 return yards. This is the first meeting with the Lobos since 1987 (Ark 2-0 All-Time Record).
This is another great growing game for the team. Plenty of room for younger guys to get playing time while meshing the starters even more.
Arkansas 49, New Mexico 7
Troy (Sept 17th)
Troy has been a great opponent for many SEC teams in the last few years. The Trojans have won at least 8 games in the last 5 seasons while winning the Sun Belt Conference in each of those seasons. This season finds the Trojans at the top of the conference yet again. Troy returns 13 starters including 5 offensive and 8 defensive players.
Sophomore QB Corey Robinson threw for over 3,700 yards last year and looks to return as the Trojans star on offense. The Trojan defense is led by DL Jonathan Massaquoi (First Team All-Sun Belt) and LB Xavier Lamb.
This game should be Arkansas’ first true test against a gun-slinging QB. Although the competition is low, this is a great game for the defense to gain experience as well as get ready for Texas A&M’s pocket-passing QB Tannehill. Expect Troy to score some points. The offense should have no problem with the Troy defense who, despite playing one of the easiest schedules in Division I (6th Weakest), still gave up over 30 points a game.
Arkansas 49, Troy 24
@ #2 Alabama (Sept 24th)
Alabama returns in 2011 as one of the top defensive powers in the nation. Last season, Alabama gave up the nation’s 3rd least points. This season, the defense features FIVE preseason first-team All-SEC picks. They also boast Heisman-candidate RB Trent Richardson(102 Car, 658 yards, 5 TDs) who will take over an offense that was ran by RB Mark Ingram.
Alabama All-SEC First Team
- RB Trent Richardson
- OL Barrett Jones
- OL William Vlachos
Inevitably, Arkansas has to play a perfect game if they want to win this game. With 3 games under their belt, Arkansas offense should have meshed enough to be ready for the Alabama defense. Last season, Arkansas had the most Total Yards against Alabama (421).
The key to this game will be the Arkansas defense. How well can Arkansas defend against All-American Trent Richardson and keep the Alabama offense off the field? The more tired we can get the Alabama defense, the better the chance of winning.
Arkansas 24, Alabama 30
#8 Texas A&M (Oct 1st) Arlington, TX
Texas A&M is hungry for a Big 12 championship this season after being picked second behind Oklahoma in the Big 12 preseason poll. 20 starters return for the Aggies, including QB Ryan Tannehill who took over at QB after last year’s game against Arkansas. The Aggies finished last year at 9-4 with a loss to LSU at the Cotton Bowl.
Some analysts believe that this could be Texas A&M’s strongest team in the last decade. Tannehill threw for 1638 yards with 13 TDS and 6 INT in only 6 games as the Aggies starter. WR Jeff Fuller led the Aggies in receiving yards (72 Rec, 1066 yards, 12 TDS) while WR Ryan Swope helped as well (72 Rec, 825 yards, 4 TDS).
The rushing attack of A&M consists of RB Cyrus Gray, who finished last season with 1,133 rushing yards and 12 TDS. He also finished the season with 7 straight 100-yard rushing games. A&M also boasts RB Christine Michael who ran for 79 yards and a TD last season against the Hogs, however he did not play the remaining 5 games of the season.
On defense, A&M suffers a huge loss of LB Von Miller, who was taken 2nd Overall in this year’s NFL draft. Miller was the anchor of the A&M defense. However, the Aggies return LB Garrick Williams, who led A&M in tackles (112).
For Arkansas, this will be a great challenge just like last year’s matchup with A&M. However, the lack of depth will tire down the Aggies to the point where we can coast in the end. With a more experienced defense than last year, I expect Arkansas to dominate pocket-passing Tannehill.
Arkansas 35, Texas A&M 21
#23 Auburn (Oct 8th)
Auburn comes off of their National Championship season with very little experience, returning only 6 starters ( 3 Offense, 3 Defense). As young as the may be, they are still very talented.
Auburn returns Sophomore RB Michael Dyer (950 yards, 5 TDS), who was the MVP of Auburn’s National Championship Game. The Tigers will look to run Dyer behind All-SEC OL Brandon Moseley. Auburn also returns WR Emory Blake (33 Rec, 554 yards, 8 TDs) and TE Phillip Lutzenkirchen (15 Rec, 185 yards, 5 TDs).
On defense, the Tigers lose infamous Nick Fairley to the NFL as well as most of their defense. Tigers’ Sophomore All-SEC DL Nosa Eguae will lead the charge.
This game looks to be overbearing to Auburn as Arkansas’ returning experience and home field advantage makes this game a no-brainer. Arkansas should win this game decisively.
Arkansas 34, Auburn 13
#120 Ole Miss (Oct 22nd)
Ole Miss has nowhere to go but up after going 1-7 in SEC play last season. Once again, the Rebel Black Bears look to a new Transfer QB in West Virginia’s Barry Brunetti. Brunetti, who hails from Memphis, is immediately eligible because he wanted to be closer to his mother, who was injured in a car wreck within the last year.
On offense, Ole Miss return RB Brandon Boldin. who finished with 576 yards and an Ole Miss-record 17 TDs. Boldin looks to run behind Arkansas-transfer OL Matt Hall in a very weak O-Line depth chart. Brunetti and Boldin appear to be Ole Miss’ only hope on Offense this season.
Nutt (10-22 career SEC w/ Ole Miss) is ironically the only hope for his struggling team to win against Arkansas. Nutt refuses to stop fighting until the final whistle has blown and is well known for his motivational skills in games Ole Miss was not supposed to win. Regardless, this game looks to be one last bomb in the Nutt welcoming parade for Ole Miss.
Arkansas 31, Ole Miss 10
@ Vanderbilt (Oct 29th)
Vanderbilt has had some of the worst problems with coaches, having to hire 3 coaches in 3 years. Maryland coach-in-waiting James Franklin will take over a program that requires a strong coaching base. So far, he has done well with his recruitment, having already picked up 3 4-star recruits over the summer.
On offense, Vanderbilt would be happy to announce they are returning all 11 starters. However, the Vanderbilt offense ranked near or at the bottom of every statistic. Expect a better performance out of Vanderbilt, but not enough to make a major impact.
The Vanderbilt defense also has room for major improvements. After giving up an average of 30 points a game and 200 yards a game last season, Vanderbilt is hoping to make major improvements so they can become competitive in the SEC very soon.
Arkansas 49, Vanderbilt 17
#12 South Carolina (Nov 5th)
South Carolina looks to return as SEC East Champions this year on the backs of their Heisman-candidate RB Marcus Lattimore. However, if QB Stephen Garcia can’t stay out of trouble, then the Gamecocks will have a lot of difficulties this year.
On offense, South Carolina has a star-studded crew in Lattimore (248 Car, 1198 Yards, 17 TDs) and WR Alshon Jeffery (79 Rec, 1387 Yards, 9 TD). If the offensive line can get themselves worked out, this offense could be terribly threatening. Gamecocks’ QB Garcia will also have to play a better role as field commander than he has in recent years.
Defensively, the Gamecocks looked terrible last year ( 10th in SEC Def Passing). Keep an eye out for All-SEC DE Devin Taylor and Freshman Jadevon Clowney.
Arkansas should win this game on the backs of the defense. We must contain Jeffrey on the outside and not allow Lattimore to get loose in the open field. South Carolina will have major problems containing the Arkansas offensive attack. Once again, our offense will be no match for their inept defense.
Arkansas 34, South Carolina 24
Tennessee (Nov 12th)
In Head Coach Derek Dooley’s 2nd year as coach, he hopes to turn around a program that has been sinking since the firing of Phillip Fulmer. So far, Dooley has done a great job, taking the Volunteers to the Music City Bowl and losing to North Carolina in a heart-breaking 2OT thriller.
Offensively, Sophomore QB Tyler Bray will look to improve this season after leading the Volunteers to a 6-7 record last year. RB Tauren Poole (193 Car, 994 Yards, 11 TDs) leads the charge for Tennessee. Keep an eye out for WRs Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter, who will be leading the aerial attack for the Volunteers.
Defensively, Tennessee is in a major rebuilding phase after returning only one starter. An entirely new Defense does not bode well for the Vols, though it does benefit them to play the Hogs late in the season.
Once again, Arkansas should dominate the Volunteers in Fayetteville. As the smoke clears in Knoxville, a better team will rise, but not this year. With a new defense and struggling offense, the Vols have no chance against the Hogs.
Arkansas 41, Tennessee 14
#23 Mississippi State * (Nov 19th)
In Dan Mullen’s 2nd year, he has Bulldog fans teeming with excitement. After thoroughly dominating Michigan in the Gator Bowl last season 52-14, Mississippi State immediately gave him a contract extension (4 years $10.6 Mil). This season, the Bulldogs look to go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons.
On offense, Miss State returns 8 starters including Senior QB Chris Relf who threw for 225 yards while running 103 yards and a TD against Arkansas last season in a 2OT thriller. Chris Relf will lead the charge again for the Bulldogs in their quest for success in the West. Also, keep an eye out for RB Vick Ballard (166 Car, 892 yards, 16 TDs).
Defensively, Miss State is going to have problems filling the middle of their defense after losing all three starting LBs. The strength of the Bulldog defense is almost exclusively supported by their strong defensive line.
This game is bound to be another thrilling game with plenty of twists and turns. Expect an opportunity for an upset. However, look for the Arkansas defense to break through in the end of the game to lead the Hogs to a win.
Arkansas 31, Mississippi State 24
@ #4 LSU (Nov 25th)
Since Bobby Petrino’s arrival in the SEC, Les Miles and the Tigers have struggled tremendously to stop the offensive terror that are the Hogs. This season poses to be an epic matchup with great National Championship implications. Possibly, both teams could go to New Orleans. Loser would go to Sugar Bowl while the winner would go to NC (both are held in NOLA).
Offensively, the Tigers look to improve upon their horrible passing game which is ranked last in the SEC and 107th overall in Division I last season. QB Jordan Jefferson returns to an offense depleted by the loss of RB Stevan Ridley and WR Terrence Tolliver. If Jefferson is able to hook up with returning WRs Reuban Randle (33 Rec, 544 Yards, 5 TDs) and Russell Shepard (33 Rec, 254 Yards, 1 TD) then LSU‘s offense may make the Tigers great this year.
The strength of LSU is their defense. They return 7 starters many of which are on All-SEC teams. DB Morris Claiborne (1st All-SEC), DL Barkevious Mingo (2nd All-SEC), LB Ryan Baker (2nd All-SEC), DB Tyrann Mathieu (2nd All-SEC), DL Sam Montgomery (3rd All-SEC). Their strength is experience in numbers, which bodes well for any championship-caliber team.
The average margin of victory for this game in the last 6 seasons has been a mere 3.5 points. This game could also be the deciding point for many National Championship contention games. Inevitably, this is the most important game of the season. Both teams already know this from the beginning of the season.
This season, I believe that Arkansas defense will show up more than the Tiger defense. Arkansas defense has always enjoyed playing up in big games and this game will be no different. Offensive line will be well-synced and ready to battle with one of the best defenses in the nation. Arkansas has too many scoring threats for LSU to handle.
Arkansas 34, LSU 28
SEC Championship: Arkansas vs. South Carolina
Arkansas will meet up with defending-SEC East Champ South Carolina with National Championship implications on the line. This game is no different in strategy than from the first time these teams met this season. However, South Carolina Defense should have more experience and pose a greater risk this game.
With National Championship implications on the line for Arkansas, I expect the Hogs to come up firing on all cylinders early on in order to procure a bid to the National Championship.
Arkansas 30, South Carolina 10