Look for a lot of this man next year.
If, like me, you're still suffering from something of a Sugar Bowl hangover, then one surefire cure is to start thinking about what the next football season will be like. Luckily, several prognosticators have already jumped into the fray with their pre-preseason rankings (we're still on the lookout for the pre-pre-preason rankings for 2012).
On one end of the spectrum, ESPN's Mark Schlabach has clearly imbibed the Razorback Kool-aid, putting them at #8 in his poll. Meanwhile, SI's Andy Staples ranks Arkansas #17, which I suspect will be a more common placement as more predictions come out. And, as a public service we feel obligated to note that the online betting site Bodog.com has given the Hogs 30:1 odds to win the BCS next year (Alabama, LSU and Florida have better odds, and most other SEC teams are clustered around 50:1).
A quick look at the roster and incoming recruiting class seems to indicate that the defensive improvements will continue (if they consistently play like they did in the second half of the Sugar Bowl, Schlabach will look like a very wise man). On the offensive side, Knile Davis, a returning Dennis Johnson and an insanely deep corps of receivers ought to keep things humming along, although the loss of big #15 will be tough to make up. From the Department of Obvious Statements, the ability of Tyler Wilson (or Brandon Mitchell) to fill Ryan Mallett's shoes is the key determining factor to the team's success, and we won't really have much real insight there until the Hogs take the field in Tuscaloosa in September.
One other thing to consider is that the Razorbacks will possibly be working in a new offensive coordinator for the second year in a row, as Garrick McGee is a top contender for the head coaching job at Tulsa (and really, they'd be crazy not to hire him).
This is a topic we'll undoubtedly return to in more detail during the slow months ahead, but for now I'll boldly say that the defense will be better, the offense will likely regress a bit and the the overall result will come down to a few key breaks here and there. As always, the difference between the BCS title game and the Liberty Bowl really isn't all that much in the SEC.
What do you think?