Arkansas Football 2012: Why Arkansas Will Take a Step Back in the SEC Next Year

Chad Luse@@ChadLuseCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2012

The Arkansas Razorbacks had a great season in 2011, going 11-2 with a win over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.

If the Hogs were in any other conference, they would probably be conference champions. Last year, their only losses came against LSU and Alabama, the two best teams in the nation.

Hogs fans are excited for the 2012 season as they get Alabama and LSU at home, which should be their two toughest matchups next year. Quarterback Tyler Wilson will be back leading a very good offense; running back Knile Davis is returning from a severe injury suffered right before the season started. Davis led the SEC in rushing two seasons ago.

However, the 2012 season might be a disappointing season for the Hogs. The Razorbacks continue to make huge strides under head coach Bobby Petrino, but their defense has been their Achilles' heel in big games against tough opponents. Their top defensive players—Jake Bequette, Jerry Franklin and Tramain Thomas—are gone now, which should make very difficult holes to fill.

On the offensive side of the ball, how will Wilson be able to run Petrino's potent offense without receivers Greg Childs, Joe Adams, and Jarius Wright? The Razorbacks still have speedster Cobi Hamilton, and they signed two very good prospects in D'Arthur Cowan of Olive Branch, Miss., and Keon Hatcher of Owasso, Okla. But they failed to sign their biggest need in Dorial Green-Beckham as he went to SEC new-comer Missouri.

The SEC West will be stronger next year as Alabama and LSU will remain elite, Auburn is improving and Texas A&M will be joining next season.

Arkansas only has four road games in 2012, but they are all tough games as they have to travel to Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State.

Bobby Petrino has done a terrific job with the Hogs, but his team will need to make major improvements on the defensive side of the ball and find some new receiving threats if it wants to compete in the SEC next year.