Preseason Top 10 with a first-class offense.
Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Knile Davis. The weapons in the Razorbacks’ wide-open spread were plentiful prior to the start of the 2012 campaign. Arkansas’ football program — and expectations — changed quickly however following head coach Bobby Petrino’s impromptu motor accident involving an affair with a team employee.
Blindsided by the incident that resulted in Petrino’s firing, the Razorbacks haven’t recovered, plummeting out of the rankings faster than John L. Smith’s credit line.
Facing an uphill climb to a bowl game, Arkansas (4-5) must win two of its final three contests — all against ranked teams — to avoid missing the postseason. That journey begins Saturday at South Carolina against a program its dominated the last three seasons with wins coming by an average of 18 points per game.
From the shotgun, the Razorbacks’ passing game has been especially efficient against with the Gamecocks’ secondary, a talented unit that sometimes struggles with elite-level quarterbacks. Wilson and Ryan Mallett have both burned South Carolina through the air in recent years and stretching the field again Saturday will be Arkansas’ ingredients towards a win.
Since missing the Alabama game due to injury, Wilson has thrown 11 touchdown passes over the last six contests but the Razorbacks are just 3-3. South Carolina was burned on Nov. 3 by Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, but the Gamecocks managed a crucial stop in the final minutes to capture win No. 7. Ranked eighth in the BCS, Steve Spurrier says “plenty of goals” are still out there for his program including a second straight double-digit win season and a quality bowl game. Beating Arkansas is a mini-win in and of itself, something the Gamecocks haven’t done since 2008 in Columbia.
South Carolina is coming off a much-needed bye week following its emotional win over that Vols that included Marcus Lattimore’s horrific injury. Fifth-year senior Kenny Miles will be the team’s featured back the rest of the season and will share carries with freshman Mike Davis. Lattimore, who has already had surgery on his knee, is expected to be honored during Saturday’s game as South Carolina’s all-time touchdown leader. Spurrier hopes No. 21 receives “the loudest ovation ever” at Williams-Brice.
The Razorbacks hope they can spoil the party and move one step closer to a bowl. An Arkansas win would also end any hope the Gamecocks have of reaching a BCS bowl as an at-large.
Petrino interested in Kentucky?
Shortly after leaving the Atlanta Falcons for Arkansas, Petrino said his goal was to always coach in the SEC. Recent reports indicate he’s interested in returning.
Petrino’s father, Bobby Petrino Sr., said Wednesday that his son would talk to the Wildcats if contacted by the 1-9 Eastern Division bottom-dweller. Petrino won the Orange Bowl at Louisville and won 41 games in four seasons prior to his stint in the NFL. He’d bring a fun-to-watch offense to a program in need of ticket sales and a new face on the sidelines.
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