Hogs Picked 3rd in SEC by Media. My 2011 Predictions.
From the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama; The Alabama Crimson Tide were overwhelmingly picked by SEC Media Members as the team to win the SEC this season. LSU finished a distant second in the voting with 29 votes and the Arkansas Razorbacks picked up 18 votes for third place.
With the season being just over a month away, here's my take on the Hogs upcoming schedule.
The one thing the Hogs have going for them this season is how the schedule lays out. Their first three games are against non-conference patsies, Missouri State, New Mexico and Troy. The Hogs will be heavy favorites in all three of these games and the weak schedule early should give their young offensive line time to gel and first year starter Tyler Wilson time to get his timing down. (note: Tyler has not been named the OFFICIAL starter yet, but barring an injury or one of the other QB's having an outstanding fall camp, will most likely be named the starter before the first game of the season). After that, when you look at the Hogs opponents schedules, the Razorbacks always seem to get a team at just the right time. Either at the end of a multi-week road stretch or sandwiched between two other BIG games for that team. So, I really like the Hogs chances in every game this season, except one.
After starting 3-0 against non-conference patsies, the Hogs will then have to travel to Tuscaloosa to face a Crimson Tide team that many consider the favorite to win it all this year. Bama will be one of, if not the, most physical teams the Hogs will face. There's no secret what they're going to do, they're going to run, run and run some more. Their defense will be much improved over last year and I just don't see this game being a high scoring affair. If there are a lot of points being scored, I hate to say it, but I think it will be Bama scoring the points late in the game after they're worn Arkansas' defensive front down. I wouldn't bet on that thought, because the Razorbacks actually have a little depth on the d-line this year. This game is definitely winnable, but it's going to take one heck of an effort from Arkansas' defense to do it. I just don't see the Hogs offense (or anyone else's for that matter) scoring a ton of points on that Bama defense. The entire season rides on this one game. Win and the sky is the limit, lose and the odds of getting to Atlanta are slim. I think the Hogs will win this game in a low scoring slug fest where Knile Davis or Dennis Johnson ends up being the hero. Hogs are 4-0 at this point and Razorback nation is in a frenzy.
The Hogs then face their old SWC foe Texas A&M in Jerry's World. Talent wise, I don't think A&M has the horses to match Arkansas. However, should the Hogs beat Bama and come into this game over-confident, I can see this being a trap game. I think Arkansas will win this one, but Petrino is going to have to do a great job keeping the team focused if they roll into Dallas undefeated.
Defending national champion Auburn comes to Fayetteville the following week after facing the cream of the crop in the East, South Carolina, in Columbia the week prior. Auburn is just a shell of its championship winning self this year and I think they will struggle to get to a bowl game. Hogs win big in this one.
Here's where many will disagree with me and probably throw huge rocks my way for thinking the way I do, but I'm going to predict it anyway. After opening up the season 6-0 and being ranked in the top 5 in the country, the Hogs will be de-railed by Nutt's Ole Miss Rebels. Nutt just has a way of getting his teams up and ready to play in these types of games. The Rebs will be at home in a stadium the Hogs have traditionally struggled to win in. They'll be huge under dogs, which Nutt will use to his advantage (nobody respects us, it's us against the world, etc, etc). Not to mention the Rebels should be much improved over last season and they came close to giving the Hogs a scare on the Hill last October. This is a HUGE trap game for the Hogs and I think they fail the test. 6-1 at this point, but still hold the tie breaker over Bama in the SEC-West.
Poor Vandy has the misfortune of being the Hogs next opponent. After the upset loss at Oxford, Petrino and company will not be in a good mood when they arrive in Nashville and the 'Dores will feel the Razorbacks wrath. This one will not be pretty. Hogs win in a blow out.
The Hogs return home the following Saturday to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks will still be top dogs in the east by this point, but their stock will be falling as it does just about every November. Hogs win and win big. Spurrier will throw his visor at least once and bench his QB numerous times during the game, but to no avail. The march to Atlanta is on for the Hogs.
The Volunteers of Tennessee roll into Fayetteville next. Last time they were on the Hill, Darren McFadden had a field day against the depleted Tennessee defense. This time, it will be Knile Davis and/or Dennis Jones running circles around the Vols defenders. I think this will be a close game, but in the end the Hogs will be able to run out the clock late in the game to hold on for the win.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Razorbacks will face one of the most physical teams in the SEC in Little Rock. The Mississippi State Bulldogs should have a solid 7-8 win season, but this won't be one of those wins. The Dogs have NEVER won inside the State of Arkansas and that trend will not be broken this year. Hogs win in a crazy, high scoring, affair.
And now.. the game for all the marbles.. LSU, Baton Rouge, Tiger Stadium, day after Thanksgiving.. the 10-1 Hogs vs the 10-1 LSU Tigers.. both ranked in the top 5.. if LSU wins and Bama loses (since they will have already lost to Bama) they go to Atlanta.. if the Hogs win (since they'll own the tie breaker over Bama), they're in Atlanta. I'm reluctant to even give a prediction here, and I hate to even think this way, but.. I think LSU is going to whip the Hogs in every facet of the game and claim the Golden Boot. They've lost to the Razorbacks 3 out of the last 4 meetings, so no doubt this game has already been circled on their calendar. They're playing at home (luckily for the Hogs it's an afternoon and not a night game), the Hogs will be facing their 4th tough opponent in as many weeks while LSU will have played two weaker teams leading up to this game. I think LSU will end the Hogs dreams of going to Atlanta and Arkansas will finish the season 10-2.
My post-season predictions:
SEC Championship Game - Alabama (11-1) vs South Carolina (8-4).. Alabama wins big..
National Championship - Alabama (12-1) vs Oregon (11-1).
SEC Sugar Bowl Rep - LSU (11-1) ..
Capital One Bowl SEC Rep - Arkansas (10-2)..
Cotton Bowl SEC Rep - South Carolina (8-5)
Gator Bowl SEC Rep - Florida Gators
Outback Bowl SEC Rep -Mississippi State
Chik-Fil-A Bowl SEC Rep - Georgia Bulldogs
Liberty Bowl SEC Rep - Ole Miss Rebels
Music City Bowl SEC Rep - Tennessee Volunteers
BBVA Compass Bowl SEC Rep - Auburn Tigers