Bobby Petrino and his staff have done a terrific job in turning the Arkansas Razorbacks into a national title contender. It's only bad luck that the Razorbacks have to be in the same division as Alabama and LSU.
Petrino and his team are tired of hearing how good Bama and LSU are, so they are ready to change that. With Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis returning, this may be the best chance for the Razorbacks to make a run at the SEC championship.
However, playing in the SEC is always tough, and you have to bring your best game every week or you might slip up. Here are Arkansas' biggest games next year that affect the SEC West race:
Sept. 15, vs. Alabama
In the last couple of years, this game has been hyped up and has been a tough SEC opener for each team. Next year will be no different. Alabama has pulled out the win five straight meetings, and the Razorbacks are ready to put an end to that streak.
Tyler Wilson and the high potent Razorback offense will test Alabama's new, young defense, while Alabama's strong running game will test Arkansas' front seven. This game features Heisman hopeful Wilson against defending champion A.J. McCarron.
Arkansas needs this win to boost its confidence and use this game as a lift off the national title. The atmosphere in Fayetteville will be crazy, and this game should be one of the best of the year.
Out of these three games, how many will Arkansas win?
Nov. 10, at South Carolina
Arkansas' road SEC schedule is not an easy one at all. They have to travel to Texas A&M, Auburn and Mississippi State. However, their hardest road challenge will be when they travel up to Columbia, South Carolina. Arkansas has won three straight meetings, but the Gamecocks get Marcus Lattimore back, so they will be hungry to get revenge on the Razorbacks.
South Carolina will most likely have the best defensive line in the conference, and Connor Shaw proved at the end of the year that he can win games for the Gamecocks. It will be interesting to see how Tyler Wilson reacts to a lot of pressure in this game. Also, Arkansas' defense will need to find a way to stop Lattimore.
Arkansas plays LSU two weeks later, so Arkansas can not be looking past the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier knows how to get his team motivated, so this game should come down to the fourth quarter.
Nov. 24, vs. LSU
Arkansas fans know that the biggest game of the season is always against LSU, known as the Battle for the Golden Boot. No matter how good each team is, both teams show up for this game and try to knock each other off.
The Razorbacks have not forgotten about being embarrassed last year in Baton Rouge. They will have revenge on their mind all season. LSU lost a lot of talent in their secondary, and I think that will be a difference maker. Tyler Wilson will need to time to throw it, and his receivers need to beat the young Tigers secondary.
On the other hand, Arkansas' defense needs to step up. They have to play tough against the run and not give up big plays on special teams. We saw how the game changed last year when the Honey Badger took a punt for a touchdown.
If both teams are undefeated going into this game, then this will be the biggest game of the year. Arkansas knows they need to get past LSU to get to the national title.
If the Razorbacks can win all three of these games, then they should be in the driver's seat for the SEC title and national title. But one bad game could change their season and cost them.