The Arkansas Razorbacks are absolutely the team that could win SEC West this year led by Top 5 QB Ryan Mallet and a strong offensive unit. Bobby Petrino was brought in to lead Arkansas to the top of the SEC and he has come in with a “gung-ho” mentality. This offense is very reminiscent of the one he put together in the early to mid 2000’s while coaching the Louisville Cardinals. The Razorbacks must somehow learn to win in hostile territory as they were 0-4 in true road games in 2009. However, two of those losses were by 3pts. so they could have easily finished 2-2 on the road. It is time to breakdown the “Hogs” to see just what we can expect from them this year.
OFFENSE: Offensively it all starts with the 6’6” 250 lb. Ryan Mallet and the cannon he has for a right arm. Mallet was absolutely lights out for the most part (3,600+ yds, 30 TDs and only 7 Ints.); the one problem Mallet had came in games (mostly road games) in which he missed open receivers and running backs because he tried to hard to force the ball in tight spots or he just plain missed them. Mallet will have a trio of receivers to play catch with (Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs) along with athletic TE D.J. Williams who can stretch a defense down the middle of the field. However, where the “Air Raid” is great, the ground game needs a little help. Ronnie Wingo and Knile Davis will probably get the majority of the carries but Petrino will not hesitate to use as many as four backs this season. The offensive line should be solid and provide Mallet lots of time to throw downfield.
DEFENSE: Well as good as the offense was last year that is how bad this unit was. The “Hogs” were absolutely dreadful last year, especially in pass defense. The Razorbacks were dead last in the SEC in defense (no surprise there) and were ravaged by air for about 300 yds / game. There are no superstars on this side of the ball at all; LB Jerry Franklin may be about the closest. He is looking to lead them in tackles for 3 straight years and barring injury, he should do that. DE Jake Bequette registered 5.5 sacks last year but unless someone steps up, he will see his share of double-teams this year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Alex Tejada must improve his consistency this year as the Razorbacks will probably have 2 or 3 games that could be decided by FGs. He missed big game kicks last year against Florida and LSU (both 3pt. losses) and several other games where he was erratic. But he did manage to hit the game winner against E. Carolina in their bowl game. The punter is back after averaging about 38 yds a kick so he will need to upgrade that to around 45 yds or so to help change the field positions against good teams.
SCHEDULE: Arkansas’s schedule is one that only Texas A&M threatens them in non-conference play (neutral site game). Last year the “Hogs” lambasted the Aggies 47-19 but this year’s game should be a little more competitive. But Razorback fans already have Sept. 25th circled on the calendar as the Defending Champs, the Alabama Crimson Tide come to town. This could be the signature win this program needs to propel them to SEC West crown. However, a week before this game is the proverbial trap game when Arkansas visits Athens, GA to take on the Bulldogs; last year these teams combined for 93 points with Georgia winning 52-41. Road games against Auburn and S. Carolina could prove tricky for Petrino’s club as well; the good news is LSU has to come to Fayetteville.
2010 OUTLOOK: The Razorbacks can and will compete for the SEC West crown and they have a good shot at winning it. The back-to-back games against Georgia and Alabama will say a lot about how far this team can go. The rest of the schedule is not unbearable but they will have to pick up at least one other win on the road to stay in the thick of the race. The defense will determine how far this team can make it because the offense will score points in bunches. I see the “Hogs” going 10-2 overall, but both losses should be in conference.