The Arkansas Razorbacks will square off against the South Carolina Gamecocks tonight in what will be the least hyped game between two BCS top-10 teams in college football history. The lack of media attention is due to the fact that Razorbacks have struggled to put away inferior teams the last two weeks and the Gamecocks lost their all-world running back.
The Razorbacks will probably win the game tonight, but who has the brighter future?
Arkansas will be losing their stable of wide receivers in Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Jarius Wright who are all seniors.
South Carolina will also lose a great deal of talent next season. Between graduating seniors and players departing early for the NFL, the Gamecocks are likely to lose six of their 11 starters on defense. It is also likely that they will lose their only deep threat on offense in Alshon Jeffery.
Both teams have uncertainty at running back, despite having star players at the position.
Knile Davis and Marcus Lattimore have both sustained severe leg injuries. When a running back suffers a major leg injury there is no guarantee that he will return to his prior form.
So the question must be asked: who can recover from these losses with the least resistance?
In my opinion, the answer is clearly Arkansas. Bobby Petrino does not need five-star receivers to be productive on offense. Although he is losing four key receivers, he will be able to find adequate replacements.
The Gamecocks, on the other hand, will struggle mightily with the loss of their key defensive players. More teams are going to crowd the line of scrimmage with Jeffery departed for the NFL. The offense will see a dramatic drop next season in production because of the lack of a downfield threat.
As a result, the defense will need to continue their level of dominance from 2011—which is unlikely.
There is also the condition of each division. Next season will be the season that the East begins to establish itself as equal and perhaps the better division. Georgia is likely to be a preseason top-eight team. They return nine players on defense, their leading passer is a sophomore, and three of their top four receivers are freshman.
Tennessee will be improved with one extra year of development and Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, and Da’rick Rogers all being juniors. Florida will be better in season two under Will Muschamp and even Vanderbilt is not a pushover any longer.
In the Western division, LSU might be the preseason No. 1. However, Alabama will take a step backwards because of youth. Auburn will be better, but outside of those three teams, the SEC West will be on a down slide.
Arkansas will have to travel to Auburn, but have LSU and Alabama at home.
Neither team will have an easy road to Atlanta. However, unless there is major conference realignment, the Razorbacks have the greatest shot at a better season.