If there’s any season that Arkansas fans would like to brush under the carpet, it’s 2012. The Hogs were horrible under John L. Smith, the interim coach who probably never would have stayed in his role ANYWAY- even if the Razorbacks had been bowl eligible. Bobby Petrino started 2012 horribly, got fired for sexual indiscretions (and lying about it – and making us all laugh in the process), and Smith’s press conferences and his horrible team made us laugh even harder at the end.

But then they hired Wisconsin’s coach Bret Bielema, and we stopped laughing at the guys at Fayetteville. There’s no question Bielema has the experience of coaching for big teams in high-pressure environments. Wisconsin was both. Bielema can recruit, too.

LAST YEAR

Last year the Hogs went 4-8, including a 2-6 SEC record. The Razorbacks beat terrible Auburn and Kentucky sides, but struggled and were outperformed by just about everybody else. There were blow-outs at Alabama, Texas A&M and even Mississippi State. There were heartbreaking losses against LSU and Ole Miss. And there were embarrassing losses against Rutgers and University of Louisiana-Monroe.

Tyler Wilson still managed to throw for over 3,300 yards and 21 TDs. His problem was his 13 INTs. Cobi Hamilton was one of the top five best receivers in the SEC, and maybe college football, grabbing a sensational 90 catches for 1,335 yards and 5 TDs. That’s pretty great. The Razorbacks had a poor running game, with no rusher getting over 800 yards.

OFFENSE

Now that Brandon Mitchell’s transferred, this is going to be Allen’s team. Having said that, with new coach Bret Bielema’s offense, which during his years at Wisconsin was ‘run first, ask questions later’ – despite having Russell Wilson as a leader, don’t be surprised to see him not high on the ‘attempts list’ for starters at the end of the season. Allen stands in the shadows of giants after his predecessors Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson tore up Fayetteville during their Razorbacks careers, and he’s had some game experience.

Expect Allen to be supported by RBs Jonathan Williams and Nate Holmes, but now Hamilton’s left and MeKale McKay’s gone to play for Cincinnati, he’s lost his top three receivers for 2013. A lot is expected – and needed –  of you, Chris Gragg.

Running-wise, it’s going to be a hotch-potch of running backs. We expect a duo of running backs in the same way as Wisconsin had with Montee Ball and James White, with Jonathan Williams and Kiero Small leading the charge. It definitely won’t be too much of an ‘Air Raid’ offense this year, we can tell you.

DEFENSE

In 2012 the Hogs gave up over 30 points per game and 409 yards per game. Despite their relative excellence against the rush (124.1 yards/game – good for 19th in the country), they were abysmal against the pass (119th in the country).

The defense returns eight starters from 2013, including DEs Chris Smith and Trey Flowers and DT Byran Jones. The line should actually be really strong in 2013, again.

In 2013 the abysmal secondary returns most of their secondary – which Arkansas fans will pray will show some improvement from the horror of 2012. This will include strong safety Rohan Gaines, who was the team’s second-highest tackler last season with 75.

THE SCHEDULE

(Thanks, Wikipedia)

Date Opponent
 
Aug 31 Louisiana–Lafayette*  
Sept 7 Samford*    
Sept 14 Southern Miss*  
Sept 21 at Rutgers*  
Sept 28 Texas A&M
Oct 5 at Florida  
Oct 12 South Carolina
Oct 19 at Alabama  
Nov 2 Auburn
Nov 9 at Ole Miss  
Nov 23 Mississippi State
Nov 29 at LSU  

Unless everything goes drastically wrong, the Razorbacks should go 4-0 to start the season, before it all gets a little difficult against A&M, at Florida, at home to South Carolina, and on the road to Alabama. That’s one of the nastiest streak of games any team could ever get. In November, the schedule lightens up a bit with the hosting of Auburn, back-to-back Mississippi games at Ole Miss and at home to MSU, and the season-ending Battle For The Golden Boot against LSU.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s not a stretch to say that we think Arkansas finishes its opening eight-game stretch of the season at 4-4. It would not be too much of a stretch to see Arkansas then splitting the last four games, to finish 6-6. Any Arkansas fans would be delighted by that. However, it could all go wrong. There could be an embarrassing loss to Rutgers. Or at home to Auburn. Or to (gasp) Southern Miss. But we’ll go for 6-6, because we’re feeling optimistic about Coach Bielema.

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