Arkansas fans are excited this year. They feel this is a year that they can risk high expectations without the risk of a huge letdown. There has been more preseason hype focused Arkansas’s way than at any time in decades.
With the season kicking off in the next few days, it is time to look closely into the truth about the 2010 Hogs. This is not so difficult as the team returns largely complete for the 2010 season. All of the hard, cold, facts are out there for fans to see.
How awful was the 2009 Arkansas Defense?
Between November 3rd and November 17th of 2009 Arkansas played three of the most potent offenses in the nation. These offenses ranked 5th, 16th, and 6th in total offense for the entire 2009 season.
Most would agree this was a fairly formidable test for a defense. To see how Arkansas stacked up to the rest of their conference, we need to compare.
Alabama won the SEC in 2009 and had two common opponents out of the three mentioned above. They also played a closely matched offensive conference opponent for the third.
In this comparison Auburn and Florida will be used for common opponents. Texas and Texas A&M will be used as closely matched offensive opponents from the same conference.
How does Arkansas stack up side-by-side?
163.66 yards per game
106.66 yards per game
244.33 yards per game
207.66 yards per game
409.99 yards per game
314.32 yards per game
21.66 points per game
18.33 points per game
170 yards per game
127.66 yards per game
This leaves Arkansas at a 138 yard per game deficit on defense when compared to the last SEC champion. It also leaves Arkansas lacking by 3.33 points per game.
Of course some will say this is an unfair comparison. Arkansas is an offensive oriented team. It is also very easy to take a fair and focused look at the offensive side of things.
Both Arkansas and Alabama played three common opponents that were formidable on defense. Florida, South Carolina, and LSU all had top tier defenses in 2009.
For the purposes of this comparison, head to head matchups are not useful, it has already been established that the Arkansas defense wasn’t quite on par with that of Alabama.
235 yards per game
223 yards per game
108.66 yards per game
223 yards per game
343.66 yards per game
446 yards per game
22.33 points per game
26 points per game
120.66 yards per game
73.66 yards per game
This leaves Arkansas at another deficit of 55.34 yards per game and 3.67 points per game. Many have picked the Arkansas team to be a dark horse contender in the western division in 2010.
The numbers are very clear; the Hogs must come up with another 193.34 yards per game and seven points against elite competition to challenge for the SEC title in 2010.
During the 2009 campaign seven points were scored for every 83 yards of offense. The defense allowed seven points for every 112 yards of offense. This was against all competition. It is very obvious that there is quite a difference when elite competition is considered.
For the Hogs to make up 193 yards per game there will have to be quite an improvement in offense, defense, and special teams play. With almost the entire team coming back, this is possible.
One area that needs massive improvement is special team’s coverage. The team allowed 3.33 more yards per punt return than they gained and only averaged 23.8 yards per kick return in 2009.
Improvement in this area alone should lead to a net gain of 10 yards per game or more. Fans can expect about a five percent gain in offensive production due to returning experience. This leads to about a 21.37 yard per game increase.
This leaves the Arkansas defense to make huge strides in 2010. They will need to improve about 162 yards per game against elite offensive competition. This puts them allowing only about 250 yards per game against teams like Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Florida.
This is a very unlikely scenario under the best of circumstances. The more likely scenario is that the defense will improve about eight percent or 32 yards per game against such competition.
There is still a 130 yard deficit to make up. Fans will have to depend on this extra production to come from better game planning from the coaching staff, better individual performances from a few players and reduced mistakes and penalties.
Arkansas can not compete for the SEC title this year based on offensive improvement alone. If the Hogs are to become an elite SEC team, there must be substantial improvement in every facet of the team. Every coach and player will have to raise their level of performance.
If all of these intangibles happen for the Hogs this year, fans just might be looking at a special season.