Will anyone slow down Alabama’s reign at the top? Can Florida shake off preseason disrespect to challenge for the East? So begins @MrPalmettoSDS’s two-week, daily series with a look into the crystal ball on how each of the Southeastern Conference’s 14 programs will finish this season.
AT A GLANCE
Aug. 2: Kentucky
Aug. 3: Auburn
Aug. 4: Tennessee
Aug. 5: Mississippi State
Aug. 6: Mizzou
Aug. 7: Ole Miss
Aug. 8: Vandy
Aug. 9: Arkansas
Aug. 10: Florida
Aug. 11: LSU
Aug. 12: South Carolina
Aug. 13: Texas A&M
Aug. 14: Georgia
Aug. 15: Alabama
ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (4-8, 2-6 in 2012)
THE 2013 BATTLEFIELD
Aug. 31 vs. La-Lafayette (W) = Arkansas was 91st in the nation in points for last season (23.5) and 83rd in points against (30.4). Those numbers must improve this fall to avoid an embarrassing finish. A battle with the Ragin’ Cajuns should be a good start.
Sept. 7 vs. Samford (W) = Samford went 5-3 last season in the underrated Southern Conference against the likes of Appalachian State, Wofford and Georgia Southern. But this is the SEC …
Sept. 14 vs. Southern Miss (W) = Few teams had a more dreadful season than the Razorbacks last season but Southern Miss was one of them. Head coach Ellis Johnson (formerly South Carolina’s DC) is gone, but the Golden Eagles will continue their post-Larry Fedora struggles.
Sept. 21 at Rutgers (W) = This one’s difficult. Rutgers is usually a tough out at home and return dual quarterbacks Gary Nova and Chas Dodd. How did the Scarlet Knights win nine games in 2012? They had a defense that was fourth in the country in fewest points allowed. This will be a challenge for the Razorbacks. I think they get it done.
Sept. 28 vs. Texas A&M (L) = Picked seventh in the West at SEC Media Days, the Razorbacks go belly up in their conference opener.
Oct. 5 at Florida (L) = The Razorbacks need a playmaker to upset the Gators and it’s unlikely one will have emerged by the first Saturday in October.
Oct. 12 vs. South Carolina (L) = Some of the experts have picked Arkansas in this game and with the Razorbacks’ string of recent success against the Gamecocks, why not? Ryan Mallett is coming out of the locker room nor is Darren McFadden or Felix Jones. Steve Spurrier’s unit is safe.
Oct. 19 at Alabama (L) = At least the spread won’t be 52 points, the margin of last year’s beating in this rivalry series.
Nov. 2 vs. Auburn (L) = This one’s winnable at home, but Auburn wants to avoid a winless league season as well.
Nov. 9 at Ole Miss (L) = The Rebels tip the scales in personnel comparison and continue their late-season stride toward a respectable bowl invite.
Nov. 23 vs. Miss. St. (W) = Arkansas snaps a seven-game losing skid with a come-from-behind win over Miss. St. If this victory doesn’t come, the wheels would’ve fallen off with a nine-game skid to close out 2013. Yuck.
Nov. 29 at LSU (L) = This matchup’s been known to get a little funky in overtime, but an extra session won’t be needed this season. Les Miles and the Tigers close out the regular season with their 10th win.
PROJECTED FINISH: 5-7, 1-7 (7th in West)
THE SKINNY: The Razorbacks will feel the after effects of last season’s misery with a tough schedule that begins Sept. 28 with a home date against Texas A&M. How can Arkansas lose Knile Davis, Cobi Hamilton and Tyler Wilson and expect to be better? The Razorbacks likely won’t and expectations should reflect that in Bielema’s first season. Defensive end Chris Smith should have gaudy numbers in his final season because Arkansas’ defense could be on the field a lot this fall. A 4-0 start ends with one victory over the final eight games.
Photo Credit: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports