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Arkansas 2012 opponent capsules

This article was published August 26, 2012 at 6:00 a.m.

GAME 1

Jacksonville State

DATE Sept. 1

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2011 RECORD 7-4. 6-2 Ohio Valley Conference

COACH Jack Crowe (81-52 in 11 seasons at Jacksonville State, 95-82 overall in 17 seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 6 offense, 4 defense

KEY PLAYERS RB Washaun Ealey, QB Marques Ivory, OL Tori Mobley, SS Pierre Warren

2012 SCHEDULE at Arkansas Sept. 1, Chattanooga Sept. 10, at Eastern Kentucky Sept. 22, Southeast Missouri State Sept. 29, at Tennessee Tech Oct. 6, at Eastern Illinois Oct. 13, Tennessee State Oct. 20, Murray State Oct. 27, at Tennessee-Martin Nov. 3, Austin Peay Nov. 10, at Florida Nov. 17.

OUTLOOK Gamecocks Coach Jack Crowe, fired as Arkansas’ coach 20 years ago after the Razorbacks lost to The Citadel in the 1992 opener, has built a winning program at Jacksonville State. He’s entering his 12th season at Jacksonville State with a 54-17 Ohio Valley Conference record, including three championships. The Gamecocks, led by former Georgia running back Washaun Ealey, are expected to challenge for the OVC title again this year, but they open and close with SEC road games at Arkansas and Florida for the financial guarantees that help bankroll the program. Jacksonville State will be looking for another SEC upset like the one it got in 2010 when it won 49-48 in double overtime at Ole Miss.

GAME 2

Louisiana-Monroe

DATE Sept. 8

PLACE War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

2012 RECORD 4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt Conference

COACH Todd Berry (9-15 in two seasons at Louisiana-Monroe, 38-75 in 11 seasons overall)

RETURNING STARTERS 8 offense, 5 defense

KEY PLAYERS WR Brent Leonard, OL Jonathan Gill, CB Vincent Eddie, DL Kentavious Caldwell

2012 SCHEDULE at Arkansas Sept. 8, at Auburn Sept. 15, Baylor Sept. 21, at Tulane Sept. 29, at Middle Tennessee State Oct. 6, Florida Atlantic Oct. 13, at Western Kentucky Oct. 20, South Alabama Oct. 27, Louisiana-Lafayette Nov. 3, at Arkansas State Nov. 8, North Texas Nov. 17, at Florida International Nov. 24.

OUTLOOK The Warhawks seem to play at Little Rock about as often the Razorbacks do. The arrangement works for both teams. It’s a home game for the Razorbacks that doesn’t require a return road date and a good payday for Louisiana-Monroe that’s a relatively inexpensive trip. The Warhawks open with road trips to Arkansas and Auburn, and have a tough third game against Baylor. But the Warhawks, picked to finish sixth in the Sun Belt, are getting the Bears to come to Monroe for a Friday night ESPN game.

GAME 3

Alabama

DATE Sept. 15

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2011 RECORD 12-1, 6-1 SEC West

COACH Nick Saban (52-10 in 5 seasons at Alabama, 141-54-1 overall in 16 seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 6 offense, 4 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB AJ McCarron OL Barrett Jones, FS Robert Lester, LB Nico Johnson

2012 SCHEDULE Michigan at Arlington, Texas, Sept. 1, Western Kentucky Sept. 8, at Arkansas Sept. 15, Florida Atlantic Sept. 22, Ole Miss Sept. 29, at Missouri Oct. 13, at Tennessee Oct. 20, Mississippi State Oct. 27, at LSU Nov. 3, Texas A&M Nov. 10, Western Carolina Nov. 17, Auburn Nov. 24.

OUTLOOK Alabama will attempt to become the first school to win consecutive national championships since Nebraska in 1994-1995 and give Coach Nick Saban his fourth title. There is plenty of talent to replace, including four NFL first-round draft picks, but Saban has recruited well and the Crimson Tide will start the season ranked No. 2 in The Associated Press poll behind USC. Junior quarterback AJ McCarron is back to lead the offense and junior Eddie Lacy should be the Tide’s next big thing at tailback. Senior Barrett Jones has moved to center to anchor one of the nation’s most experienced offensive lines. The defense returns only four starters, including senior Jesse Williams, who has moved from end to nose guard, but there are plenty of talented players who are hungry after waiting their turn to shine for the Tide.

GAME 4

Rutgers

DATE Sept. 22

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2011 RECORD 9-4, 4-3 Big East

COACH Kyle Flood (first season)

RETURNING STARTERS 6 offense, 8 defense

KEY PLAYERS LB Khaseem Green, RB Jawan Jamison, DB Duron Harmon, DT Scott Vallone

2012 SCHEDULE at Tulane Sept. 1, Howard Sept. 8, at South Florida Sept. 13, at Arkansas Sept. 22, Connecticut Oct. 6, Syracuse Oct. 13, at Temple Oct. 27, Army Nov. 10, at Cincinnati Nov. 17, at Pittsburgh Nov. 24, Louisville Nov. 29

OUTLOOK Rutgers was a late addition to Arkansas’ schedule with the Razorbacks losing SEC newcomer Texas A&M as a nonconference opponent. The Scarlett Knights have gone to bowl games in six of the past seven years, good enough to help Coach Greg Schiano move from Rutgers to the NFL, where he is now Tampa Bay’s coach. There shouldn’t be much change at Rutgers with longtime offensive line coach Kyle Flood being promoted to replace Schiano. The defense should be strong, with 16 of last season’s top 20 tacklers returning. The Scarlett Knights need to find a consistent starting quarterback, which figures to be either Gary Nova or Chas Dodd.

GAME 5

Texas A&M

DATE Sept. 29

PLACE Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

2011 RECORD 7-6, 4-5 Big 12

COACH Kevin Sumlin (first season at Texas A&M, 35-17 overall in 4 seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 8 offense, 6 defense

KEY PLAYERS LB Sean Porter, RB Christine Michael, WR Ryan Swope, OT Luke Joeckel

2012 SCHEDULE Louisiana Tech at Shreveport, Aug. 30; Florida Sept. 8, at SMU Sept. 15, South Carolina State Sept. 22, Arkansas Sept. 29, at Ole Miss Oct. 6, LSU Oct. 20, at Auburn Oct. 27, at Mississippi State Nov. 3, at Alabama Nov. 10, Sam Houston State Nov. 17, Missouri Nov. 24.

OUTLOOK The Aggies go into a new conference with a new coach, firing Mike Sherman after four seasons and hiring Kevin Sumlin, a former Aggies assistant who won big with an exciting offense at Houston. Sumlin has said repeatedly he expects the Aggies to win in the SEC, despite the conference’s overall strength. The Aggies already are familiar with Arkansas, their former Southwest Conference rival. The teams played in Cowboys Stadium the past three years, and Texas A&M is hoping a change of venue to Kyle Field will help after the Razorbacks went 3-0 in those nonconference games.

GAME 6

Auburn

DATE Oct. 6

PLACE Jordan Hare-Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

2011 RECORD 8-5, 4-4 SEC

COACH Gene Chizik (30-10 in three seasons at Auburn, 35-29 overall in five seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 7 offense, 9 defense

KEY PLAYERS TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, LB Daren Bates, DE Corey Lemonier, QB Kiehl Frazier

2012 SCHEDULE Clemson at Atlanta Sept. 1, at Mississippi State Sept. 8, Louisiana-Monroe Sept. 15, LSU Sept. 22, Arkansas Oct. 6, at Ole Miss Oct. 13, at Vanderbilt Oct. 20, Texas A&M Oct. 27, New Mexico State Nov. 3, Georgia Nov. 10, Alabama A&M Nov. 17, at Alabama Nov. 24.

OUTLOOK The Tigers go into the season with new coordinators on offense (Scot Loeffler) and defense (Brian VanGorder) and hopes of improving on last season’s fourth-place finish in the SEC West. Kiehl Frazier, from Springdale, figures to win the quarterbacking job and needs to show he is ready to lead the offense after playing off the bench in every game last season. The Tigers have good targets in receiver Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen if Frazier can get them the ball. Senior Onterio McCalebb needs to become a more consistent threat at tailback with the loss of Michael Dyer. The defensive line should be a strength with all four starters returning.

GAME 7

Kentucky

DATE Oct. 13

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteivlle

2011 RECORD 5-7, 2-6 SEC

COACH Joker Phillips (11-14 in two seasons at Kentucky)

RETURNING STARTERS 6 offense, 5 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Maxwell Smith, WR La’Rod King, FS Martavius Neloms, OL Larry Warford,

2012 SCHEDULE at Louisville Sept. 1, Kent State Sept. 8, Western Kentucky Sept. 15, at Florida Sept. 22, South Carolina Sept. 29 Mississippi State Oct. 6, at Arkansas Oct. 13, Georgia Oct. 20, at Missouri Oct. 27, Vanderbilt Nov. 3, Samford Nov. 17, at Tennessee Nov. 24.

OUTLOOK The Kentucky football program can be thankful that the basketball team won the NCAA championship last year. That helped keep fans happy and not paying as much attention to the fact Kentucky had its streak of consecutive bowl games end at five. Beating Tennessee in football for the first time in 26 years helped, but Coach Joker Phillips enters the season at least on a warm seat. The Wildcats need sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith, who showed promise in three starts last season, to take over the offense. For Arkansas, this appears to be a good time to get Kentucky back on the schedule.

GAME 8

Ole Miss

DATE Oct. 27

PLACE War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

2010 RECORD 2-10, 0-8 SEC

COACH Hugh Freeze (first season at Ole Miss, 30-7 overall in three seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 7 offense, 6 defense

KEY PLAYERS WR Donte Moncrief, LB Mike Marry, P Tyler Campbell, RB Jeff Scott

2012 SCHEDULE Central Arkansas Sept. 1, Texas-El Paso Sept. 8, Texas Sept. 15, at Tulane Sept. 22, at Alabama Sept. 29, Texas A&M Oct. 6, Auburn Oct. 13, at Arkansas (LR) Oct. 27, at Georgia Nov. 3, Vanderbilt Nov. 10, at LSU Nov. 17, Mississippi State Nov. 24

OUTLOOK Leading Arkansas State to a 10-2 record and a Sun Belt Conference title last season allowed Hugh Freeze to land the Ole Miss job after Houston Nutt’s firing. Freeze, a former Rebels assistant, has called it his dream job, but he’s taken over a mess. The Rebels figure to struggle to win any SEC games after going winless last season. The Rebels also are playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, including a nonconference game against Texas. The biggest key for Freeze will be recruiting players to fill the numerous holes on the roster.

GAME 9

Tulsa

DATE Nov. 3

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2011 RECORD 8-5, 7-1 Conference USA

COACH Larry Blankenship (8-5 in one season)

RETURNING STARTERS 6 offense, 7 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Cody Green, RB Trey Watts, WR Bryan Burnham, FS Dexter McCoil.

2012 SCHEDULE at Iowa State Sept. 1, Tulane Sept. 8, Nicholls State Sept. 15, Fresno State Sept. 22, at Alabama-Birmingham Sept. 29, at Marshall Oct, 6, Texas-El Paso Oct. 13, Rice Oct. 20, at Arkansas Nov. 3, at Houston Nov. 10, Central Florida Nov. 17, at SMU Nov. 24.

OUTLOOK Larry Blankenship led Tulsa to the Armed Forces Bowl — where BYU beat the Golden Hurricane 24-21 — last season in his head coaching debut. It was Tulsa’s sixth bowl trip in seven seasons, and the Hurricane will look to keep that trend going led by junior quarterback Cody Green, a transfer from Nebraska who redshirted last season after playing in 17 games with the Cornhuskers. The defense is led by safety Dexter McCoil, who has 13 career interceptions. Arkansas and Tulsa have played 72 times, most recently in 2008 when the Razorbacks won 30-23 to improve their series lead to 53-15-2.

GAME 10

South Carolina

DATE Nov. 10

PLACE Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.

2011 RECORD 11-2, 6-2 SEC

COACH Steve Spurrier (55-35 in 7 seasons at South Carolina, 197-75-2 in 22 seasons overall)

RETURNING STARTERS 7 offense, 6 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Connor Shaw, RB Marcus Lattimore, DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Devin Taylor

2012 SCHEDULE at Vanderbilt Aug. 30, East Carolina Sept. 8, Alabama-Birmingham Sept. 15, Missouri Sept. 22, at Kentucky Sept. 29, Georgia Oct. 6, at LSU Oct. 13, at Florida Oct. 20, Tennessee Oct. 27, Arkansas Nov. 10, Wofford Nov. 17, Clemson Nov. 24.

OUTLOOK The Gamecocks have an open date before playing Arkansas, which Coach Steve Spurrier hopes will help South Carolina turn around a series that has favored the Razorbacks 5-1 the previous six years. The Gamecocks are 20-7 the past two years and another big season is expected in 2012, especially if tailback Marcus Lattimore returns to form after knee surgery. Former Arkansas assistant Lorenzo Ward will take over as defensive coordinator with Ellis Johnson becoming Southern Mississippi’s coach. Kirk Botkin, a former Arkansas All-SEC tight end and assistant coach, is the Gamecocks’ new linebackers coach.

GAME 11

Mississippi State

DATE Nov. 17

PLACE Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Miss.

2011 RECORD 7-6, 2-6 SEC

COACH Dan Mullen (21-17 in 3 seasons at Mississippi State)

RETURNING STARTERS 5 offense, 7 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Tyler Russell, WR Chad Bumphis, CB Johnthan Banks, LB Cameron Lawrence,

2012 SCHEDULE Jackson State Sept. 1; Auburn Sept. 8; at Troy Sept. 15; South Alabama Sept. 22, at Kentucky Oct. 6, Tennessee Oct. 13, Middle Tennessee State Oct. 20, at Alabama Oct. 27, Texas A&M Nov. 3, at LSU Nov. 10, Arkansas Nov. 17, at Ole Miss Nov. 24.

OUTLOOK The Bulldogs didn’t do as well as expected last season coming off a nine-victory season in 2010, but they have gone to back-to-back bowls for the first time since 1999-2000 and beat Ole Miss for the third year in a row. The problem for Mississippi State is that Ole Miss is the only SEC West team Dan Mullen has beaten in his three seasons as the Bulldogs’ coach. The Bulldogs have had some close calls against other SEC West teams under Mullen, but they need to beat some of those powerhouses if Mississippi State is to move up in the division. Another bowl game and continued domination of Ole Miss are realistic goals for the Bulldogs.

GAME 12

LSU

DATE Nov. 23

PLACE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

2011 RECORD 13-1, 7-0 SEC

COACH Les Miles (75-18 in 7 seasons at LSU, 103-39 overall in 11 seasons)

RETURNING STARTERS 7 offense, 6 defense

KEY PLAYERS QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Spencer Ware, DE Sam Montgomery, FS Eric Reid

2012 SCHEDULE North Texas Sept. 1, Washington Sept. 8, Idaho Sept. 15, at Auburn Sept. 22, Towson Sept. 29, at Florida Oct. 6, South Carolina Oct. 13, at Texas A&M Oct. 20, Alabama Nov. 3, Mississippi State Nov. 10, Ole Miss Nov. 17, at Arkansas Nov. 23.

OUTLOOK LSU is expected to again challenge for SEC and national titles despite the dismissal of standout cornerback and punt returner Tyrann Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 in most preseason polls, but dropped to No. 3 in The Associated Press poll with voters taking Mathieu’s loss into consideration. The Tigers are still loaded on defense, led by end Sam Montgomery, and they should be strong at offensive line and running back. The key for their success will be if redshirt junior Zach Mettenberger, who began his college career at Georgia, shows he’s ready to be an elite quarterback.

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