By Gary Brown (Correspondent) on July 07, 2010
Playing in the SEC makes winning football games difficult every year, but is this the season that Arkansas breaks out under head coach Bobby Petrino?
Here is a game-by-game look at the Razorback’s upcoming season and a prediction for each outing. What will the record look like for Arkansas in 2010? You can skip to the bottom to find out, but it would be more fun to look at each game starting with…
September 4, Tennessee Tech
What are the most interesting items to know about Tennessee Tech? First, Jim Youngblood of NFL fame played his college football for the Golden Eagles. Second, head coach Watson Brown has a brother, Mack, who coaches at Texas.
The Ryan Mallett Heisman express is off to a quick start with a really big win.
September 11, Louisiana-Monroe (Little Rock)
Coach Todd Berry is in his first season as head coach of the War Hawks, who are coming off a 6-6 campaign in 2009. When it comes to playing the likes of Arkansas here he said, “I’m excited about playing those teams. We have played the major conferences schools in the past and have been competitive against them.”
Last year they lost to Texas, Arizona State, and Kentucky by a combined score of 129-47. The games were really not that close.
The Razorbacks are 2-0, but not really tested.
September 18, at Georgia
Remember this game last year? Don’t expect a repeat by either team. Georgia and Arkansas will both be better on defense.
Georgia is switching to a 3-4 defense and has two solid cornerbacks in Brandon Boykin and Brandon Smith. How quickly the big people upfront make the adjustment to the new scheme is one of the keys to the Bulldogs’ season.
Aaron Murray is the other key. He will be the new man under center, and has the potential to be the next great Georgia quarterback. Making his job easier will be future NFL star A.J. Green at wide receiver.
This one will be a great game, and while Georgia has improved on defense, their offense will still be kind of green coming in this game. Arkansas gets a big win “between the hedges.”
September 25, Alabama
Here is the Tide’s weakness: Ten starters from last year’s bruising defense are gone.
Here is the bad news for Bama opponents: Many football experts believe the Crimson Tide defense may be even better this time around.
On offense, Alabama has no real weak spots. Arkansas fans can remember what it is like to debate whether the number two guy is better than the Heisman candidate. Mark Ingram has the trophy, but many believe understudy Trent Richardson is better. They may be right.
Timing is the key for Arkansas in this game. Late in the year the edge would go to Alabama, but the explosive Razorback offense has the edge in September. Arkansas wins.
October 9, Texas A&M, Arlington Texas
Here comes a trap game for the Razorbacks. They will be ranked high and thinking about a Heisman for their QB. They will also remember the whipping they applied to the Aggies last year.
In College Station they believe their own QB is a Heisman candidate as well. Jerrod Johnson threw 30 TD passes last year and only eight interceptions.
Arkansas will beat Texas A&M for two reasons. Johnson has talent, but his offensive line is rather leaky. The Aggies also don’t play defense very well. The Hogs go 5-0, and fans start dreaming of a BCS title.
October 16, at Auburn
Head coach Gene Chizik has a great staff, and they are pretty good at the lifeblood of college football: Recruiting.
The Tigers had anywhere from the third- to sixth-best class in the nation last February, depending on which publication you trust. One signee who will have a quick impact is from Little Rock. Running back Michael Dyer will find plenty of carries in Gus Malzahn’s offense.
With Malzahn calling the plays, Auburn averaged over 33 points per game last year, almost doubling the previous year’s number. You can bet the former northwest Arkansas resident wants to have a good showing when the home folks come calling in south Alabama.
The BCS title dream pops with an Auburn win. Arkansas sits at 5-1.
October 23, Ole Miss
When the Rebels open play in 2010, they will have to replace 78 percent of their offense from last season. Quarterback Jevan Snead, all-purpose player Dexter McCluster, and wide receiver Shay Hodge are gone.
Here is what the Rebels do have: Houston Nutt. This makes Razorback fans laugh, but it is important to note that during his tenure in Fayetteville he was at his most dangerous when lightly regarded, and had the Pigs in the SEC’s top three for scoring in every season he led the team.
Arkansas fans can rejoice though, because there is just not that much proven talent for Ole Miss coming into the season. Brandon Bolden, last year’s No. 2 rusher, has a long way to go in replacing a talent like McCluster.
After seven games Arkansas stands at 6-1.
October 30, Vanderbilt
Remember when Vanderbilt was good?
In 2008, the Commodores finished 7-5. That is what makes for a great season in Nashville. Last year, Vanderbilt was really bad in their 10 losses. Arkansas is now 7-1.
November 6, at South Carolina
Steve Spurrier is longing for one more real shot at an SEC title. His offense has one big requirement for success, and that is consistency from the quarterback. Stephen Garcia has been far from the model the “Old Ball Coach” wants. While Garcia had impressive throwing numbers last year and tossed 17 TDs, it was his 10 interceptions at critical points that caused Spurrier to throw his visor.
Expect Garcia to become more consistent and new running back Marcus Lattimore to provide the Gamecocks with a reliable ground game that has been badly missing in action for the last three seasons.
This game will be in Columbia, and the road is unkind to Arkansas again. South Carolina gives the Razorbacks their second loss of the season.
November 13, U.T.E.P.
Mike Price’s teams like to throw the football around, but they do not keep the other team from doing so. Last year, they gave up over 33 points per game. Arkansas is back on the winning track and looking to win the SEC West at 8-2 with only two games left.
November 20, at Mississippi State
The Bulldogs boast a strong offensive line and a solid receiver in Chad Bumphis. They will find it hard to replace Anthony Dixon at running back, and Dan Mullen’s offense has still not really identified a quarterback. Chris Relf is the most experienced guy under center, but not a very good passer. Observers say Tyler Russell is the guy Mullen believes is the future of the program.
Despite weak offenses over the last decade in Starkville, it seems you can always count on the Bulldogs to bring it on defense. This year, they will adjust to a new defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz, who is one of the bright young coaches in college football. His units at Middle Tennessee State were aggressive up front and found innovative ways to put pressure on quarterbacks.
Expect him to bring this philosophy to State.
While Mullen has generated plenty of energy in Starkville, he lacks the talent to get it going this season. Arkansas is sitting 9-2, with only LSU remaining.
November 27, LSU (Little Rock)
Les Miles is the wild card. He has won 51 games in five seasons at LSU, but has a seat that is probably hotter than Mark Richt’s at Georgia.
There is a sense that he is not really that good of a coach, and he has been able to win simply because of the superior talent on hand.
This year, his QB Jordan Jefferson has to become more consistent.
Getting the ball to Terrance Toliver is one way to achieve this. The explosive receiver is listed as Mel Kiper’s best senior in the nation at his position. For Jefferson and Toliver to become a dynamic duo, the offensive line will have to get better.
The game with Arkansas will be won or lost by the LSU defense. Their traditional dominating swagger seems to be missing at times. Want a bothersome trend? LSU’s total defense number has gone up every year since 2006. Their sack total is on the same trend line.
All of the above is bad for Miles, but good for the Razorbacks. Arkansas earns a spot in the SEC championship game by beating LSU, and ends the regular season 10-2.
So, now you want to know who Arkansas will face in Atlanta for the SEC title? That is yet to be determined.