On Wednesday, the University of Arkansas athletic department released a tentative 2012 college football schedule, a schedule that should give the Razorbacks their third 10-win season in a row.
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino is leading Razorback fans into uncharted waters. The Razorbacks have never had three straight seasons of 10 or more wins. After back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2010 and 2011, Petrino has the Hogs on the cusp of the college football elite.
The most prolific era of Razorback football in terms of wins came from 1985 to 1989 under former head coach Ken Hatfield. During that five-year span the Hogs won 48 games with 13 losses, posting two back-to-back 10-win seasons in 1988 and 1989 for only the second time in school history—11 wins in 1964 and 10 wins in 1965.
Previewing the 2012 schedule coupled with the amount of talent the Hogs have returning, 10 wins should be attainable next season.
The Hogs start the 2012 college football season off with Jacksonville State on September 1 in Fayetteville followed by another non-conference game against Louisiana-Monroe. The Hogs then begin SEC play at home against Alabama on September 15.
After the Alabama game the Hogs have an opportunity to fill the following weekend versus a non-conference team or have an open date.
The next three opponents include Texas A&M and Auburn on the road and then back home to face Kentucky.
October 20 is another weekend the Razorbacks can leave as an open date or fill against a non-conference opponent.
Starting on October 27, The Hogs have back-to-back home games against Ole Miss and Tulsa before going on the road to face South Carolina and Mississippi State.
As the schedule is currently laid out, Arkansas will host LSU on Saturday, November 24, instead of on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. CBS has traditionally aired the Battle for the Golden Boot on Friday. Should CBS pick up the game again in 2012 the game day could be moved.
For now it appears that South Carolina will remain Arkansas’ annual SEC East opponent as former Big 12 conference foes Texas A&M and Missouri will be paired against one another as SEC divisional rivals.
The Razorbacks keep A&M on the schedule but no longer as a non-conference game. The site of the game has not been confirmed. The Arkansas athletic department has let it be known that they would like to keep their game against the Aggies in Arlington, Texas at the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium instead of alternating venues.
The Razorbacks rotate Vanderbilt off their schedule and lose the backend of the home-and-away matchup against SEC East rival Tennessee in 2012.
The two big games on Arkansas’ schedule appear to be Alabama and LSU, either team will be the defending 2011 BCS national champion.
Alabama is the lone SEC West opponent Petrino has not defeated as head coach of the Razorbacks. Not counting the potential loss of underclassmen, the Tide’s football team is set to lose 24 total players off this season’s BCS National Championship title team—11 offensive players, 12 defensive and one on special teams.
LSU is slated to lose 21 total players to graduation—nine on offense, nine on defense and three on special teams.
Arkansas will lose 20 to graduation—seven on offense and 13 on defense.
The Razorbacks will have a tough time replacing senior wide receivers Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright. Petrino will also have to replace Grant Freeman and Grant Cook along the offensive line.
On defense, new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes will have an even tougher time replacing defensive end Jake Bequette, cornerback Isaac Madison, safety Tramain Thomas and linebackers Jerico Nelson and Jerry Franklin after their collegiate eligibility is finished.
A saving grace for Petrino is he could have two Heisman Trophy candidates, quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, on offense in 2012 to lead the Razorbacks to another 10-win season or more.
The Arkansas Razorback 2012 Schedule
Jacksonville State, September 1, Home
Louisiana Monroe, September 8, Home
Alabama, September 15, Home
Open Date, TBD
Texas A&M, September 29, TBD
Auburn, Auburn, AL
Open Date, TBD
Ole Miss, Home
South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Mississippi State, Starkville, MS