For the next installment of this series, I'm going to the so-called Natural State. 2009 will be the second installment of Petrino ball at Arky. How will it work out?
Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3, 5-3)
The 2008 version of the Arkansas Razorbacks were an intriguing team. They started off the season by almost losing to Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe, then were bludgeoned by three top ten teams. The Hogs looked like an awful team for the most part. Then, a funny thing happened; they went to Jordan-Hare and knocked off preseason SEC West favorite Auburn and started turning their season around. They finished 5-7 (2-6), but were probably the most improved team in the league in 2008. I fully expect that momentum to carry over into 2009, especially with transfer QB Ryan Mallett taking the reins of Bobby (spit) Petrino's offense.
Sure wins: Missouri State, vs. Texas A&M, Eastern Michigan, Troy, Mississippi State
Sure losses: @Florida
Toss-ups: Georgia, @Alabama, Auburn, @Mississippi, South Carolina, @Louisiana State
Arkansas 45 Missouri State 7: Arkansas shouldn't have as much trouble with its FCS opener in 2009 as it did in 2008. The Hogs roll over the first MSU and start 1-0 (0-0).
Arkansas 20 Georgia 16: Georgia could be a very good team in 2009. They could also be very mediocre. I've already said that I thought Arkansas will be a very good team in 2009, and because this game is in Fayetteville, I'll give the nod to the Hogs. They move to 2-0 (1-0).
Alabama 21 Arkansas 17: See my previous entry on Alabama's season to see a description of this game. Arkansas drops to 2-1 (1-1).
Arkansas 27 Texas A&M 10: This game will be played in Jerry Jones' behemoth of a new stadium in Arlington, in a sort of throwback to the old SWC days. Mike Sherman has the Aggie program in disarray. A&M shouldn't give Arkansas any trouble, even in their home state. The Hogs roll to 3-1 (1-1).
Arkansas 33 Auburn 20: See my previous entry on Auburn's season to see a description of this game. The Razorbacks improve to 4-1 (2-1).
Florida 48 Arkansas 23: The Gators are the most consensus SEC/national champion in a long time. Tebow and company should have no problem getting back to the SEC championship game and the BCS national championship game. Arkansas won't pose much of a threat, and Arkansas won't be able to stop Urban Meyer's offense. The Hogs drop to 4-2 (2-2).
Arkansas 26 Mississippi 18: The overrated Rebels will drop this game to Houston Nutt's old employer in Oxford. Arkansas turns in a dominant performance and wins a game that's not as close as the score indicates, rising to 5-2 (3-2).
Arkansas 49 Eastern Michigan 0: The Eagles are a FBS team, but they aren't a good FBS team. Arkansas rolls over another weak opponent, becoming bowl eligible at 6-2 (3-2).
Arkansas 27 South Carolina 14: The Gamecocks travel a long ways to Fayetteville (Google maps says 914 miles) and come away empty handed. Arkansas should have no trouble with Spurrier's 'Cocks. The Razorbacks solidify themselves as 2009's Ole Miss by improving to 7-2 (4-2).
Arkansas 31 Troy 17: The Trojans are a decent team, even for a Sun Belt team. In recent seasons they have upset Missouri and Oklahoma State at home, and come close to beating LSU in Death Valley. Arkansas better not take Troy lightly, and won't. They earn a solid 14-point victory, moving to 8-2 (4-2).
Arkansas 34 Mississippi State 9: This game will be another in a long season of growing pains for Dan Mullen at State. Arkansas should have no trouble with the Bulldogs in Fayetteville, and will get their ninth win of the season in impressive fashion. Arkansas improves to 9-2 (5-2).
Louisiana State 26 Arkansas 22: This game will determine whether Alabama or LSU represents the SEC West in the SEC championship game. The Hogs stunned the Purple Tigers in Fayetteville last year thanks to some late Casey Dick heroics, but expect the Bengals' defense to be much improved with John Chavis as defensive coordinator. Arkansas won't give in without a fight, but LSU will come away with a hard-fought win. Arkansas finishes at 9-3 (5-3).
Arkansas will be 2009's version of 2008 Ole Miss. A Cotton Bowl berth should be an accomplishable (is that a word?) goal for this team, and an SEC West Title isn't outside of the realm of possibility either.