I intend no level of disrespect to my fellow Bleacher Report writers, but come on—we're closing in on the actual 2010-2011 football season, and I think that it's time for a realistic breakdown and understanding of the Razorbacks' season, as well as their prospects (to whatever degree) for success this year.
The Razorbacks are experiencing a phenomenon that they are not particularly used to, and that is the return of the primary components of what was the most productive offensive engine in the SEC last year.
Anyone who has read any of my articles in the past is well aware of my propensity for discussing exactly how Heisman-worthy Mr. Ryan Mallett. To that end, I'll try to remain brief. He's far and away, by any comparison, the best returning quarterback in the SEC this year.
You stack Mallett with the monstrosity of a wide receiving corps that we have with Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and the like, and you see a potent offensive scoring machine. You further stack that with the inexplicably deep RB roster we have with Broderick Green, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo, Jr., and you have the makeup of a team ready to make a dark horse run at the SEC title.
The defense has been significantly improved over the last few months, with exceptional improvement in the secondary. Considering Arkansas' deep ball woes from last season, Bobby Petrino put an emphasis on not giving up the big plays, and the speed and dedication of the secondary has reflected that.
Whether or not people who are not Arkansas fans want to admit it, Bobby Petrino is a legitimately incredible coach capable of directing (almost) any team towards greatness. When you consider his record (including the off year at Arkansas) it's staggering to consider what he can do with the kind of talent he has returning to the field this year. I'm not sure there's any other place he'd rather be.
As a die-hard SEC fan (who is inevitably hated by every other person who is a fan of a different conference), it is apparent to me that no in-conference schedule is ever going to be easy for anyone.
Having said this, I don't think that, considering the powerhouses that comprise our conference, we could possibly have had a better draw, schedule-wise, to coincide with our high-flying offensive juggernaut.
We have a relatively small number of away games, with Auburn and South Carolina figuring prominently as the only significantly difficult ones, and the revamped SWC rivalry matchup against Texas A&M happening in Arlington.
We dropped Florida and picked up Vandy. Ole Miss lost Dexter McCluster, and Houston Nutt is running into his inevitable issues with a lackluster performance in the recruitment department. South Carolina's quarterback cracks under pressure too easily, as is evidenced by his touchdown-to-interception ratio from last season.
Arkansas fans are traditionally crazy, hog-wild, wholeheartedly enthusiastic fans. Despite this, anyone who is old enough to remember the Darren McFadden years is well aware of Arkansas' ability to squander great talent.
Here's the thing, though: To the ineducable public, a team that has the ability to score on every single down, and often does so in spectacular fashion, garners the undying love of their fans.
The Razorback nation is always excited, but this year is a true hallmark of that excitement. Mallett is on the cover of magazines, we're picked in the preseason top 25 in almost every single ranking system, Petrino has the tools that he needs, and the fans are slavering at the prospects for success that the Hogs are enjoying this year.
Sellout games and wild crowds will do nothing but push the boys in red even harder, and I anticipate an exceptionally devoted fan base to be the fuel to a tremendous Hogs season this year.
You stack a favorable schedule with a tremendous offense, an improved defense and a coach with an eye for the kill, and you see that Arkansas' prospects of success this year, although perennially hailed as being great, are exceptional.
My friends and fellow Razorback fans, of all the years we say, "This has to be the year!", I really think that this could be the year.
Arkansas, 11-2, and a Heisman for Mr. Mallett