Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema made an announcement late Saturday night that left numerous hog writers cringing on their way back home. Bielema presented a slew of injuries that had transpired during this week’s practices.
Senior Austin Tate will have a second surgery done on his right shoulder, which will consist of him being out four to six weeks. Demetrius Wilson had adapted nicely to quarterback Brandon Allen as one of his consistent receivers until his season ending ACL injury. Also, the linebacker group will continue to shuffle after backup middle linebacker Otha Peters broke his right arm, he’ll have to lay low for the next six to eight weeks.
Depth wise, Arkansas should be fine at those spots, but they can’t afford another string of injuries from key contributors. Everybody in the state of Arkansas has been preaching to the choir about this possible situation, Arkansas has the toughest schedule in the SEC, and they need all hands on deck for the journey that lies ahead. Because there’s simply no way to replace a possible hurtful schedule with two weeks until opening weekend.
Arkansas faces nine bowl teams from a year ago including the previous year’s national champion for the sixth straight season, Alabama. Arkansas is scheduled to play five out of the top 12 in the newly released AP poll. The Hogs play four top 10 teams in a row, Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama, with LSU coming on black friday in the nation’s most difficult place to play.
Arkansas went 4-8 last season, with the country’s sixth toughest schedule. Arkansas went 0-4 last season against teams presently in the top 12 this year, being outscored 168-43 against Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Alabama.
This year’s Razorback team will most undoubtedly face five legitimate SEC title contenders. Bielema’s former games like Illinois, Purdue, Indiana and Minnesota have been replaced with Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida and South Carolina, including LSU. Arkansas is the only SEC team to play five out of the big six SEC teams this season. Bielema’s Wisconsin team had a 15th ranked schedule in 2012, which included appearing against four teams in the final AP top 25 poll.
When describing how brutal the schedule really is, start with the opener against Louisiana at home. Louisiana looked destine to create another Louisiana-Monroe moment with a near loss to Florida last year in the Swamp. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won 18 games and back-to-back bowl games the last two years, with highly efficient quarterback Terrance Broadway returning. The Hogs’ easiest game comes the following week with Samford.
A home game with Southern Miss and a road swing game with Rutgers finishes the four game non-conference slate. The Southern Miss game is the first meeting between the two, and Southern Miss has other non-conference games with both Nebraska and Boise State.
The home-road-home-road big four game stretch ensues right after the trip to East Piscataway. It’s unlikely that Arkansas will come away uncapped with a winner in this series of contests. Florida, South Carolina and Alabama, all play Kentucky the week before.
These teams should be well rested when the first whistle blows against Arkansas. Kentucky could give the Hogs a run for their money with their killer schedule. There will b non-conference games with Western Kentucky and Louisville, and Alabama and Florida at home and Georgia and South Carolina on the road.
Arkansas’ bowl hopes rests in November. Arkansas would need to win two out of the next three games with Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Auburn and Mississippi State should be etched in stone as victories. Mississippi State plays Alabama the game before, Ole Miss has two weeks of preparation towards a home game with Arkansas and Auburn hasn’t beat Arkansas in Fayetteville their last two tries.
Coach Bielema has been a big hit for Arkansas in his eight months, but their hectic schedule will hit harder in 2013.