Razorback fans, your team just finished the 2011 season in both the AP and Coaches polls ranked No. Five in the nation. Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma State, and Oregon finished ahead of us. That's two BSC bowl winners and the two teams that just played in the National Championship Game. That's rarefied air, right there, elite company. Go back and think about Bobby Petrino's first season here in 2008 when the team finished 5-7 and had some pretty ugly losses during that season. Thanks in large part to Petrino's leadership and a dedicated class of seniors, three short years later and the Hogs have won two bowl games, increased their win total each year, seen players win national awards, been to a BCS bowl, and finished the season ranked in the Top Ten two years in a row. If this isn't a program on the rise, I don't know what else you could call it? The next step has to be an SEC West Championship and the program's first overall SEC Championship. And these days, an SEC Championship is a ticket to the National Championship game. And why not take that step in 2012? Here's a quick (off the top of my head) look at both the positives and the negatives in relation to the Hogs winning it all in 2012.
NEGATIVE: The Hogs are losing play-makers such as Childs, Wright, and Adams in the receiving corps and Broderick Green on the ground.
POSITIVE: Alabama and LSU are at home (wherever home is for the LSU game, but in the state of Arkansas still). Overall, the schedule sets ups nicely. The Hogs might finally get a classic, bad, Kentucky team, for example. But one still wonders which team will be selected for the fourth out of conference opponent. Hmmm?????
NEGATIVE: We still have to play Alabama and LSU! haha. Both will still be formidable foes. Alabama, I think, more so than LSU.
POSITIVE: If all goes right this year, no off-season injury, Alabama should have to face Knile Davis in the running game. If we can get a running game going against the Tide, I give the Hogs a very good chance of beating Alabama in Fayetteville. After seeing last night's performance, I know that is a big "IF" there. But also keep in mind that Arkansas's 14 point effort against Alabama was more than LSU scored on Alabama combined in two attempts! A Petrino coached quarterback will never look as bad as Jordan Jefferson looked last night.
NEGATIVE: SEC fatigue. Last night's game did not endear the nation to the SEC. Already many didn't like the fact of the rematch. The lack of it really being a game with any excitement made the resentment, worse, I am sure. This sixth win in a row will likely have the national pundits, writers, voters, all looking for an excuse not to invite an SEC team to Miami in January 2013. If the Hogs have a slip up along the way, a loss of any kind, they might not get the benefit of the doubt that past SEC teams have gotten simply because the nation is tired of the SEC.
POSITIVE: The coming out of Chris Gragg as a dangerous weapon at the tight end position. He made the loss of D.J. Williams much easier to take with his clutch catches on third down all season.
NEGATIVE: If the Hogs get by the beasts in the West, Alabama and LSU, they'll likely face Georgia in the Georgia Dome for the SEC Title. It will be Hostile with a capital "H." Of course, South Carolina, also stands a good chance next year of winning the East, but I think the Hogs still have to worry about Georgia and the Georgia fan base standing in the way of an SEC title again like they did in 2002. And the Bobby Petrino factor will bring out an extra dose of hate come early December of 2012.
POSITIVE: The emergence of Tevin Mitchell and Alonzo Highsmith on defense.
POSITIVE: Hocker and Breeding will both be back come next year.
NEGATIVE: The trend of Bobby Petrino's offenses not racking up very many touchdowns in the post-season.
POSITIVE: We have Hocker if we have to go all field goal on a team in a national championship game.
NEGATIVE: The Mayan Calendar! haha. It sure would suck if the Hogs won the SEC and then were set to play say, USC, in the National Championship game at the Orange bowl and the world ended on December 21st 2012, haha. Can we have a post-apocalypse version of the BCS?
POSITIVE: In the mojo / vibe category, the National Championship game is going to be played in the city where the Hogs got their best post-season win since the 1965 Cotton Bowl. Yeah, the Orange Bowl, 1977. Petrino is already 1-0 in that game too.
NEGATIVE: The Hogs are likely going to lose the comfort of Jerry World when they compete against Texas A&M next year. Gone will be the 50/50 crowd and in its place will be the Aggie World that is College Station.
POSITIVE: Paul Haynes. Well, he has made a very good first impression, right? haha.
NEGATIVE: The departure of Garrick McGee. Not a knock on Paul Petrino. But I just think Garrick made a good "Good Cop" for the quarterbacks to Bobby Petrino's "Bad Cop." I am not for sure if Paul Petrino can replace that dynamic. Plus, Garrick was a great recruiter!
POSITIVE: This is a potential positive. But let's think positive and DGB turns down all those big offers and comes to Fayetteville where the Hogs know how to throw the ball around the field. He is a type of player who could have that immediate impact.
This is by no means an exhaustive look at what the Hogs have going for them and against them next season. Feel free to add to the list in the comment section. But looking at it as whole, I think the Yeas are significant enough to get us really excited about the prospect of the 2012 season ending with a trip to the National Championship Game. Five wins, Eight wins, Ten wins, Eleven wins, well, why not take the step that LSU couldn't take and make it fourteen wins next season? Why not Arkansas in 2012?