Unpredictable. That sums up the 2007 season for the Razorbacks. Don't expect the 2008 campaign to be any different.
Everyone is ready to see Bobby Petrino's football genius in cardinal and white garb on an autumn afternoon. This will be an exciting year for Razorback fans and potentially a giant year for the direction of the program.
The win total this year might not resemble Nutt's first year, but at the end of the season fans will have a more definite idea of what is happening on the Hill.
Schedule analysis would be a little easier after fall camp, but this is football and we don't have time to wait for such trivial things as depth charts and freshmen progressions.
Western Illinois: In previous years, my general reaction to this game would be excitement for football but an overall yawn. Not this year. As interesting as it will be to see the new offense in action against an opposing defense, albeit not one with a pulse, it will be just as interesting to see the changes on defense and special teams. Everyone plays in this game, as Petrino gets a feel for who he can rely on. Hogs cruise.
ULM: Fans won't take this game seriously, but with last year's upset over 'Bama and Texas looming, you can expect Petrino and company to have a focused squad in his Little Rock debut. The playbook will open up a bit in this one. The scoreboard will indicate an easy Arkansas win, but this should be a hard-fought game from the Warhawks.
@ Texas: This is Petrino's chance to make an impression on the rest of the SEC on national television. As much as I like to envision Matt Jones and Cedric Cobbs running laps around the Texas defense in the last trip to Austin, don't expect the same results. My sources say Will Muschamp was really wanting the Arkansas job, so expect another fiery and passionate performance from his defense. A loaded Texas team wins by two scores, but optimism abounds.
Alabama: Nick Saban wasted no time in stockpiling talent in Tuscaloosa, and his machine should have some serious legs this year. John Parker Wilson always has a solid game against the Hogs, and unless Sam Olajubutu shows up to decapitate him again, I stand by my preseason pick of SEC Western Division champs. The Crimson Tide win a close one in Petrino's SEC debut.
Florida: Arkansas fans should be thankful everyday that this schedule included perennial cellar dwellers Texas, 'Bama, Florida, and Auburn in a five-week span. However, if Petrino is to pull of a mega upset in his first season, this could be it. The Hogs actually catch a break in that Florida plays Ole Miss in the preceding week (that isn't a typo). Nutt should have the Rebels ready to give the Gators a tough game in the Swamp. Following the Arkansas game, Florida gets LSU in the Swamp in a pivotal game to their Eastern Division title hopes. ESPN, CBS, and the Russians will be salivating all over Tim Tebow. This is the classic trap game. The goal posts come down in Fayetteville, as Petrino gets his first big win. Get Dickson Street ready.
@ Auburn: The Hogs get brought back to earth here. Arkansas fans will not be happy watching Kodi Burns and Lee Ziemba in the new Tony Franklin offense that gave the Hogs more than a headache in their season opener last year with Troy. Tubberville and Petrino say they have made peace, but if Tubbs can kick Petrino while he is down, don't expect him to pass up the opportunity. Tigers by two scores.
@ Kentucky: Finally. A game that is more than manageable, even if it is a road trip. I'm a big Joker Phillips fan, but the Wildcats have too many holes to fill on offense. Hogs roll in this one. The Hogs can use this game to get back on track and get ready for what may be the most highly anticipated event in state history since 1969.
Ole Miss: I cannot fathom the circus that will be Ole Miss game week. If anyone thought the '04 Texas and '06 USC games were loud, this one will blow them away. If Houston Nutt was ever motivated to win a game, this is it. Don't expect his cell phone to be on this day. With so much to say about this game here is the telling stat: Petrino's Orange Bowl ring is bigger and flashier than Nutt's Western Division title ring. Casey Dick shines against his former coach and the Hogs win a close one, as the state nears implosion.
Tulsa: This is one year too late from being another ridiculous headline game. Gus Malzahn will make his return to Razorback Stadium but Bobby Petrino won't care. The Hogs play at Carolina the following week but year one of the Petrino reigns does not allow for trap games. Unless Tulsa manufactured a defense this off-season, the Hogs win by two scores. Minimum.
@ South Carolina: Steve Spurrier can thank cash money that Darren McFadden is not around to have another record breaking game. Why can't Spurrier get his teams to put a full season together? Ever since the Hogs shut out the Gamecocks on a Thursday night in 02, these games have been very close and entertaining. The Gamecocks pull out a nail biter in what might be the last game that Arkansas loses to their permanent Eastern opponent for many years.
@ Mississippi State: I'm a big Sly Croom fan. A really big one. But his teams look more like Southern Miss on offense than an SEC school. The Bulldogs haven't beat the Hogs since that "made" field goal in 1998. Don't expect a 10-year reunion. I never, EVER expect Petrino to lose to a team he clearly has more talent than (i.e. Louisville tenure). This is still a gritty Croom team, but Arkansas wins by two scores.
LSU: This will be the sexy upset pick on the schedule. With or without Ryan Perrilloux, this team is loaded. Both teams will be banged up, but the depth of LSU and what will be an uber-nasty defensive line will take the Boot back to Baton Rouge in a game that won't be the instant classic the previous two in the series have been.
Arkansas finishes the season at 7-5 with a bid to the Independence/Music City/Liberty Bowl. Petrino will get his final chance of the season to make his mark with that ever elusive Arkansas bowl win and put the program on a major positive note going into the off-season.
These picks are 100 percent rock solid and if you have the opportunity, mortgage your house and use this as your betting guide.*
*The author is not responsible for house foreclosures.