The Alabama Crimson Tide will have a long road ahead of them in 2012. Though LSU could prove to be a nightmarish opponent, it is the Arkansas Razorbacks who could pose the greatest threat to the Tide's title hopes.
Both teams will be able to go toe-to-toe with the Tide in 2012, but I believe it will be the Razorbacks that give the Tide the greatest pause.
And why not? They have all the tools to pull it off, and here's a few of them.
The Tide will face LSU late in the season, and Nick Saban's teams improve immensely between September and November. Because of this, the Tide's new, young defense will be playing like veterans by then.
Arkansas gets to take their crack at the Tide in Week 3, when the Tide will be only 14 days removed from their huge bout with Michigan.
The Hogs have a lot of veteran players coming back who will be more than ready to take on Saban's still-gelling Crimson Tide.
The last time the Tide traveled to D.W.R. Razorback Stadium they came home as victors...by the skin of their teeth.
It was a game that should have been in the bag for Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks, but some last-minute heroics by Alabama's defense turned the tide.
Home-field advantages can be a bit overrated at times, but not when the team has an offense as potent as Arkansas'.
The crowd noise will not hinder quarterback A.J. McCarron a bit, but when the Hogs offense takes the field that drastic drop in noise is going to allow Arkansas to easily audible against the Tide's ever-changing offensive looks.
The Tide's defensive playbook is incredibly complicated, especially for the secondary.
It's a double-edged sword. When the players know the book they are nearly unstoppable, but when they forget a piece or miss an assignment there just might be a touchdown.
The Arkansas offense is familiar with both each other and the Tide defense. They know who the young defenders are and they will attack them relentlessly.
Their offense is a well-oiled machine right now and the Tide's defense will still be experiencing growing pains so early in the season.
In my opinion, Knile Davis is the SEC's best running back. He's the total package; he can rack up massive yardage, catch out of the backfield and pass-block as well as any running back in the country.
Had he been healthy in 2011 the Razorbacks could certainly have toppled LSU and Alabama and made their own run for the national title.
Though the Hogs' backs in 2011 were quality players they could do nothing against the defenses of those two teams. Their inability to run against them turned Arkansas' one dimensional. That's a death sentence against LSU and Alabama.
Davis, however, has proved that he can hang with both teams.
He's had a long time to recover from his injury and a 1,600-yard season is far from out of reach for Davis.
Tyler Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in both the SEC and the nation. His 24 touchdowns with six interceptions speaks for itself.
He was one of the most successful quarterbacks to face LSU and Alabama in 2011, completing around 63 percent of his passes against each team.
This year Wilson will have a commanding running game to support his passing attack, an invaluable asset for pocket passers.
It's rare when a program can replace a quarterback as prolific as Ryan Mallett, but Arkansas did it immediately without even one hiccup.
Sure, LSU wants revenge, especially after being utterly embarrassed by the Tide back in January, but I think Arkansas' blood is a little hotter.
They have never beaten Nick Saban's squad since he arrived at Alabama.
As embarrassing as losing in inglorious fashion in the national title game is, I think it's a little more shameful to be facing a six-year losing streak to a rival team.
Arkansas can't seriously be considered as an elite team until they finally conquer the Tide.