Four-Year Trend: 2008 (5-7), 2009 (8-5), 2010 (10-3), 2011 (11-2)
Notable Player: Tyler Wilson, QB. The senior is coming off an excellent first year as a starter in 2011. He was the highest rated passer in the SEC, throwing for more than 3,600 yards with a 24/6 TD to INT ratio. Arkansas will rely on him for leadership and to incorporate new personnel in the passing game. Another strong season could leave him in the discussion with Bray and Barkley to be the No. 1 Overall Pick in 2013.
Top Newcomers: Otha Peters (OLB), Jonathan Williams (RB), Jeremy Ward (G)
What’s New: Pretty much the entire coaching staff. Bobby Petrino instituted a major overhaul, bringing back his brother Paul as offensive coordinator and bringing in former Ohio State assistants Paul Haynes (as defensive coordinator) and Taver Johnson (as linebackers coach). Then Petrino took his wild ride with Jessica Dorrell that led to him getting fired and being replaced by former assistant and Michigan State head coach John L. Smith. This team is loaded, but how much will the discontinuity hurt them?
Why We Like Them: Arkansas brings back the most explosive offense in the SEC. Tyler Wilson is a plausible Heisman candidate at quarterback. They have three top-caliber running backs in Dennis Johnson, Ronnie Wingo and 2010 1,300 yard rusher Knile Davis who missed last season with an ankle injury.
Why We’re Concerned: The Razorbacks have unproven wide receivers, with the departures of Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. They also lose five starters from a defensive unit that finished 8th in the SEC in yards per play last season. Even a comprehensive improvement in schematics and execution could leave them a tier below their conference rivals.
Circle This Game: Arkansas vs. Alabama [Sept. 15] Is Arkansas a solid bowl team or a title contender? We’ll find out here. The Razorbacks must at least split and probably beat both Alabama and LSU at home to win the SEC West.
Best-Case Scenario: Bobby Petrino is not missed. The offense is explosive with a dominant running game. The defense hits its ceiling. Arkansas picks off slightly disappointing Alabama and LSU teams at home, beats South Carolina on the road and represents the SEC West in the title game with a 12-0 record.
Worst-Case Scenario: Bobby Petrino is missed. Wilson can’t develop a rapport with his new receivers. The offensive line and defense are liabilities. Arkansas cannot handle Alabama and LSU at home and struggles on the road in the tough SEC West to finish 7-5.
Projected Bowl: Capital One
[Photo via Presswire]
25. Kansas State 24. Virginia Tech 23. Clemson 22. Boise State 21. Stanford 20. Michigan State 19. Notre Dame 18. Nebraska 17. Oklahoma State 16. Wisconsin 15. TCU 14. Florida 13. West Virginia 12. Georgia 11. Texas