Arkansas football in 2012 will be a unique monster. Many analysts still have Arkansas in their Preseason Top 10 (minus the Tim Brandos of the world), so the ultimate question for the 2012 season is this: How will Arkansas do without Bobby Petrino?
This season, expect a major change in the look of our offense. With the lack of experience returning in the Receiving Corp, look for Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis to have a tremendous impact on the offense this year.
|RB||Knile Davis||RS Junior|
Losses: Broderick Green (RB), Joe Adams (WR), Greg Childs (WR), Jarius Wright (WR), Grant Cook (OG), Grant Freeman (OT)
The Arkansas defense will be led by LB Alonzo Highsmith and DE Tenarious “Tank” Wright. The defense looks to improve upon its run defense tremendously this season.
Losses: Jake Bequette (DE), Jerry Franklin (MLB), Tramain Thomas (S), Jerico Nelson (OLB), Isaac Madison (CB), Elton Ford (S), Zach Stadther (DT), Greg Gatson (CB)
For the third year in a row, I will be giving our fans a game-by-game breakdown analysis. Over the past two seasons I have held an record that I take pride in and will continue to try to make as perfect as predictions as possible (22-2 Regular Season Predictions).
Jacksonville State (Sept 1st)
Jacksonville State is looking to continue their success against SEC teams this year as Arkansas hosts the Gamecocks for the first time in school history. Jacksonville State is most known for defeating Houston Nutt’s Ole Miss team in double OT in 2011. The Gamecocks will also play Florida this year.
Jacksonville State is a member of the FCS Subdivision. They finished the 2011 season at 7-4, missing a bowl bid after finishing in a three-way tie for the Ohio Valley Conference title. The Gamecocks have only two different players that Arkansas needs to focus on: RB Washuan Ealey (1,082 yards, 8 TDs) and QB Coty Blanchard (1703 passing, 427 rushing, 6 Rushing TDs, and 12 Passing TDs).
Jacksonville State likes to run a balanced attack, but look for the Gamecocks to try and make a splash through the air against the Hogs.
JSU has two players capable of hurting opponents with their legs: running back Washaun Ealey and quarterback Coty Blanchard. They combined for 1,509 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Ealey, a former washout at Georgia before transferring, led the way with 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns.
Arkansas 42, Jacksonville State 13
Louisiana-Monroe* (Sept 8th)
Arkansas will provide ULM Warhawks with its 10th season of home-field advantage at War Memorial Stadium. Arkansas has yet to lose a game against ULM (358-128 in total points over 9 games). This will be another barn burner that will provide the young and inexperienced players with plenty of playing time.
Arkansas 42, ULM 7
Alabama (Sept 15th)
Alabama returns this season as favorites to win the SEC. They also hold a preseason ranking of #3 behind only USC and LSU. Alabama losses 23 Seniors coming off their National Championship season including the likes of Dre Kirkpatrick, Trent Richardson, and Mark Barron. What you will find, however, is an entirely reloaded Bama roster that is ready to contend for another championship this season.
Alabama may have the strongest Offensive Line this season, returning the entire line except for their Center. AJ McCarron will also have one more season under his belt as he returns as the Tide’s playcaller. Bama will feature three RB’s: Eddie Lacy Jr., Jalston Fowler Jr. and Freshman sensation TJ Yeldon. Watch for TJ Yeldon this season as everyone in Tuscaloosa cannot stop talking about this kid.
Alabama’s defense is an entirely different animal this year. Gone are the NFL draft picks in the secondary and LB corp. Look for Bama to remain strong behind their returning defensive line, led by Senior Damion Square. The biggest question for Alabama remains in their LB corps and the lack of experienced depth.
This season, Arkansas should have the upper hand in experience. Look for Arkansas to run Alabama to death behind Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson. Arkansas’ defense comes with enough experience to stop the Tide’s young rushing attack, but watch for AJ McCarron to show his leadership and keep Alabama in this game until the very end.
Arkansas 27, Alabama 21
Rutgers (Sept 22nd)
Arkansas meets up with the Scarlet Knights for the first time in school history. This will be a home and home series over the next two years. Rutgers boasts an entirely new coaching staff after Greg Schiano left to coach the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, ultimately not boding well for Rutgers. With that said, Rutgers is no push over by any means and should be prepared for just like any SEC team. Kyle Flood takes over as coach of one of the strongest defenses in the Big East.
Rutgers offense posted only97.8 rushing yard per game and 241.2 passing yard per game. The quarterback situation has yet to be decided between sophomore Gary Nova (2011: 116/227, 1553 passing yards, 11 TD, 9 INT) and junior Chas Dodd (2011: 139/245, 1574 passing yards, 10 TD, 7 INT). Both will be throwing to WR Mohamed Sanu (115 Rec, 1206 yards, 9 TDs) who accounts for half the TDs caught and more receiving yards than all other starting WRs combined. Rutgers running game suffers from a horrible offensive line which poses issues for any offensive action to even occur.
The Scarlet Knight defense is the obvious strength of Rutgers. Supporters are leaning heavily on the hopes that their defense can pull them through the majority of their offensive woes. Rutgers returns a total of 9 starters this season with the only unexperienced gaps coming on the defensive line.
Rutgers may have an experienced defense that can pull them through most of the game, but their lack of offense will end up hurting their most prized asset, the stamina of the Scarlet Knight defense. Look for Arkansas to run Rutgers ragged and attempt to wear out the defense early.
Arkansas 35, Rutgers 17
@ Texas A&M (Oct 1st)
Texas A&M returns a strong team this year. with 18 starters coming back. The Aggies only lost two starters on offense, three starters on defense and their kicker, Randy Bullock.
Texas A&M returns RB Christine Michael (149 Car, 899 Yds, 8 TDS) and star WR Ryan Swope (89 Rec, 1207 Yds, 11 TDs). Look for WR Uzoma Nwachukwu (50 Rec, 639 Yds, 2 TDs) to have a major impact on offense as well. The most interesting player to watch this season will be QB Jameill Showers, who literally only threw 5 passes all season last year (4/5 40 yds).
On defense, A&M is lead by Pre-Season All-SEC 1st Team LB Sean Porter. The Aggie defense, although experienced, still gave up 28 points a game last season and will look to improve upon that statistic tremendously. The most improvement is needed within their defensive passing.
For Arkansas to win this game, the Hogs need to consistently shut down Michael in the run game while wearing out the strong Aggie defense. Look for an exciting, high-point game that will require Arkansas to not slow down all game.
Arkansas 28 , Texas A&M 31
Auburn (Oct 8th)
Auburn comes back strong this season after a disappointing 8-5 record last season. Tiger fans were rather hopeful last year after returning 2012 National Championship MVP, RB Michael Dyer who has since transferred to Arkansas State and has been released after being caught by a state trooper with a handgun and marijuana. The Tigers also lost Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn after taking the heading coach position at Arkansas State.
Look for the Auburn defense to make major strides this season as they return 10 starters. However, the Tiger Defense still has a lot of work to do for this season after posting at the bottom of nearly every defensive SEC ranking last season.
Auburn will have problems lining up against Arkansas’ powerful offensive attack while still learning to deal with a new offensive playcaller as well as losing their star RB in Michael Dyer.
Arkansas 34, Auburn 13
Kentucky (Oct 13th)
Kentucky returns 13 starters in a 2012 season that can only hope to get better after the Wildcats abysmal 2-6 SEC record. Only 30% of the team consists of Juniors/Seniors in another young season for Kentucky. The Wildcats hope to ride the success of their younger players, with over half their 1st/2nd team rotation consisting of the freshman/sophomores.
With such a young team, Kentucky has a very bleak outlook on the season. Fans only hope to win 3-4 games this season as true freshman QB Patrick Towles looks to make a splash for the Kentucky offense this season.
Arkansas should have no problem handling a rebuilding team that is as young and inexperienced as the Wildcats will be this season. Look for a game that will be over by the 3rd quarter.
Arkansas 49, Kentucky 14
Ole Miss* (Oct 27th)
Ole Miss looks to turn a new leaf over this season after firing Houston Nutt and hiring Hugh Freeze as his replacement. Freeze will look to turn around the Ackbar Rebel Black Bears after a disappointing regime behind Houston Nutt led Ole Miss fans to provide him with a “golden handcuff” release from his coaching duties. Ole Miss posted its worst SEC record last season since entering the league in 1932, marking the end to the most hilarious era in Ole Miss football history.
Hugh Freeze will require more time than an offseason to turn around the Ackbar Rebel Black Bear football team. Arkansas should handle Ole Miss with little/no problem.
Arkansas 24, Ole Miss 7
Tulsa (Nov 3rd)
Tulsa looks to return to Fayetteville for the first time since playing a Petrino-led team in 2006 as a ranked team and Gus Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for the Hurricanes in 2008. This time around though, Tulsa looks to become more of a punching bag than last meetings unfortunate loss.
Tulsa becomes apart of the Homecoming festivities by allowing fans to have a stress-free opponent to worry about.
Arkansas 42, Tulsa 13
@ South Carolina (Nov 10th)
South Carolina looks to turn over a new leaf after losing party boy Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery to the NFL Draft. However, South Carolina returns Heisman Candidate Marcus Lattimore after he sustained a season-ending injury last year against Mississippi State. This season he looks to carry the load for the Gamecock offense.
Steve Spurrier will look to rising Junior QB Conner Shaw (1,488 yards, 14 TDs, 6 INT, 65% Completion) to once again provide a major resurgence of the Gamecock offense. After taking over for Garcia last season, Shaw led South Carolina to a 7-1 record and a victory over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Shaw’s dual-threat capabilities make him a dangerous weapon when coupled along with Lattimore. However, the Gamecock offense has major question marks in sustaining long-term drives after losing 2 starting OL that already has shown to be one of the worst teams in the SEC in protecting the QB.
The Gamecock defense (2011: #2 in Nation in Pass Defense) will be anchored by Sophomore DE JaDeveon Clowney , who was named SEC Freshman of the Year for 2011. However, South Carolina will have to replace DC Ellis Johnson who took the Southern Miss HC job in the offseason. Ellis Johnson is also well known around Arkansas as being the first choice for DC, but then left for South Carolina after only 2 weeks on the job, paving way for Willy Robinson’s tenure.
South Carolina will look to end their cross-division rivalry with Arkansas while going out with a bang. However, the Gamecocks lack of offensive production will hurt them constantly this season unless their Offensive Line can figure out how to block. South Carolina will provide a great defensive matchup for the Arkansas offense, but the lack of depth will hurt South Carolina in the end.
Arkansas 28, South Carolina 17
Mississippi State (Nov 17th)
Mississippi State will look back hoping for another season like 2010 after coming up short last season on their own expectations. Gone are offensive stars RB Vick Ballard and QB Chris Relf, whose combined yardage of 2623 total yards last season amounted for 59.7% of all Bulldog offensive production. How will the Bulldogs replace their core production?
The Bulldogs return one of the most experienced WR corps in the league as Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark, and Chris Smith return for the senior season. Junior QB Tyler Russell looks to become the air juggernaut for the Bulldogs this season after MSU ranked 9th in the SEC in scoring last season. Currently, there is no clear star RB for the Bulldogs, but LaDarius Perkins will be taking the starting role this season.
In the last 3 seasons, Mississippi State holds a 3-12 record against their SEC West Rivals…..with all 3 wins coming against in-state rival Ole-Miss. Look for the streak to continue this season.
Arkansas 34, Mississippi State 17
LSU (Nov 23rd)
This season, LSU will return to Fayetteville for the first time in 20 years. LSU has not been to Arkansas’ Campus since inclusion in the SEC in 1992. This time around, Arkansas will look to stop the strong LSU rushing attack behind the three-headed attack of Spencer Ware (177 CAR, 707 Yds, 8 TD) , Michael Ford (127 CAR, 756 Yds, 7 TD) , and Kenny Hilliard (62 CAR, 336 Yds, 8 TD). Look for LSU’s defense to continue their impressive ways.
LSU’s offense will consist of a new QB in Zach Mettenberger, who had a total of 11 completions last season. The Tigers will look to rely on their strong offensive line and rushing attack to maintain their running game while focusing on proper clock management this season. Watch for the RB Trio to command the offense for the Tigers this season.
The Tiger Defense is the major reason why LSU did so well last season, only giving up 11 PPG, which was 2nd in the the nation only behind National Champion Alabama. The biggest surprise loss this season comes in the form of Tyrann Mathieu’s unfortunate exit from LSU. LSU’s defense is led byDE Sam Montgomery, S Eric Reid, and DT Anthony Johnson. The strength of the defensive is easily the line, as all other areas took major experience hits due to seniority losses.
A battle for the ages is due as LSU rebuilds from its demoralizing National Championship game last season. Arkansas players will look to overcome the noise this season, but will it be enough to hold up against LSU? Arkansas must be able to break through the LSU defensive front and slow down the Tiger’s massive running attack in order to win this one.
Arkansas 14, LSU 20