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2007 Arkansas Razorbacks

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Arkansas Razorbacks Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Arkansas Razorbacks

Recap: The Hogs had their moments in 2007, winning five of their final six regular season games, but not enough to spare head coach Houston Nutt, whose fate was likely sealed before the season ever began.  Although Arkansas limped out of the gate with three tough SEC losses, it rallied behind the superlatives of RB Darren McFadden, one of the most celebrated players to ever wear the school colors.  With a chance to finish the season ranked, however, the Razorbacks got smoked by Missouri and RB Tony Temple in the Cotton Bowl, 38-7.     

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Darren McFadden

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Freddie Fairchild

Biggest Surprise: Arkansas did its part to reshuffle the BCS rankings on Nov. 23, beating No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge in a triple-overtime classic.  As expected, McFadden led the way for the Hogs, rushing for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and throwing for 34 yards and a touchdown in a 50-48 victory that reverberated throughout the country.    

Biggest Disappointment: Losing to Auburn, 9-7, in October on a Wes Byrum field goal with under a minute left in the game.  In a listless effort, the Razorbacks sunk back to .500, failing to open any holes for McFadden or RB Felix Jones, and managing to generate only 11 first downs and 193 yards of total offense.         

Looking Ahead: It took some time for Arkansas to locate Nutt’s successor, but Bobby Petrino should prove to be worth the wait.  The former Louisville and Atlanta Falcons head coach will have his work cut out for him in 2008, inheriting a team that has an average quarterback, and must replace McFadden, Jones, and much of the secondary.

- 2007 Arkansas Preview
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2006 Arkansas Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4
2007 Record: 8-
5

Sept. 1 Troy W 46-26
Sept. 15 at Alabama L 41-38
Sept. 22
Kentucky L 42-29
Sept. 29 North Texas W 66-7
Oct. 6 Chattanooga W 34-16
Oct. 13 Auburn L 9-7
Oct. 20
at Ole Miss W 44-8
Oct. 27 FIU W 58-10
Nov. 3 South Carolina W 48-36
Nov. 10 at Tennessee L 34-13
Nov. 17
Mississippi St W 45-31
Nov. 24 at LSU W 50-48 3OT
Cotton Bowl
Jan. 1 Missouri L 38-7

Jan. 1
2008 Cotton Bowl
Missouri 38 ... Arkansas 7

Everyone expected to see a big-time running game, but the wrong one showed up. Missouri's Tony Temple set a Cotton Bowl record with 281 rushing yards scoring from 22, 4, 4, and 40 yards out in the stunning rout. Arkansas turned the ball over five times and only managed a three-yard Darren McFadden touchdown run late in the third quarter, but by that time it was 28-7 Missouri and the outcome had basically been decided. The Tigers outgained the Hogs 323 yards to 164 on the ground.
Offensive P
layer of the Game: Missouri RB Tony Temple ran 24 times for 281 yards and four touchdowns
Defensive Player of the Game: Missouri S William Moore made 13 tackles, picked off a pass and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 19-32, 197 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Darren McFadden, 21-105, 1 TD. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 5-52
Missouri - Passing: Chase Daniel, 12-29, 136 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Tony Temple 24-281, 4 TD. Receiving: Will Franklin, 5-77

Thoughts & Notes ...
5 Thoughts on the Cotton Bowl ... Talk about your dud matchups, the Heisman stars failed to shine. Darren McFadden wasn't awful with 105 yards and a touchdown, but he was hardly special. Chase Daniel only completed 12 of 29 passes for 136 yards with an interception. ... Arkansas looked like a team that underwent a coaching change. Missouri had no problems stopping the Hog attack time and again, and five turnovers showed just how unfocused the team appeared to be. All the drama about the McFadden agent situation couldn't have helped. .... 7.5 yards per carry for Missouri and 3.3 yards per run for Arkansas. Even in Mizzou's wildest dreams they never could've thought this would happen. Who could've imagined the Tigers winning in such a blowout without any pop from Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and the passing game?

Nov. 23
Arkansas 50 ... LSU 48 3OT
In the third overtime, Arkansas scored first on a three-yard Peyton Hillis touchdown run with Felix Jones taking it in for the two-point conversion. LSU answered with a nine-yard Brandon LaFell touchdown catch, but the two-point conversion attempt was picked off by
Matterral Richardson to seal the win for the Hogs and ruin LSU's national title dreams. Darren McFadden ran for touchdowns from 16, 73 and nine yards out, and threw a 24-yard touchdown to Hillis, who also ran for a 65-yard touchdown and caught a ten-yard scoring pass in the first overtime. The Tigers had to fight just to get to overtime with Demetrius Boyd catching a two-yard touchdown pass with 57 seconds to play. LSU scored first on a 12-yard Matt Flynn run, but Arkansas answered with a Hillis's ten-yard catch. McFadden's nine-yard scamper gave the Hogs the lead, but Hester helped tie it up with a two-yard run. Arkansas finished with 385 rushing yards and 513 yards of total offense to LSU's 413 yards.
Player of the game: Arkansas RB Darren McFadden ran 32 times for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and completed three of six passes for 34 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 22-47, 209 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Jacob Hester, 28-126, 2 TD. Receiving: Early Doucet, 7-52
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 10-18, 94 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 32-206, 3 TD. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 5-62, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Of course the win over LSU will be remembered for Darren McFadden's stirring performance, but the play of the offensive line was just as amazing. The Hog front five neutralized the tremendous LSU defensive line, even though Glenn Dorsey was hobbling. Peyton Hillis was just as clutch as McFadden, and Felix Jones was phenomenal when he got a little bit of work. Of course, this was No. 5's magnum opus. He has had better games, but not bigger. He might not have won the Heisman with it, but he certainly made sure he'll make an extra few million in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Nov. 17
Arkansas 45 ... Mississippi State 31
MSU scored first on a four-yard catch from Jamayel Smith, and then Arkansas took over through the air with Casey Dick throwing three straight touchdown passes hitting Farod Jackson from 30 yards out, Robert Johnson from 35 yards away, and Marcus Monk from 19 yards out. Darren McFadden, who was bottled up for most of the game, took a Dick pass 57 yards for a score, and connected with Johnson for a 24-yard touchdown. MSU kept bombing away with Wesley Carroll throwing for 421 yards and four touchdowns, including an 80-yard play to Smith midway through the fourth quarter, but there were also four interceptions including a pick six from Antwain Robinson to put the game away. MSU ended up turning it over five times, while Arkansas didn't give the ball away.
Player of the game: Arkansas QB Casey Dick completed 14 of 17 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 29-51, 421 yds, 4 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Anthony Dixon, 17-40. Receiving: Jamayel Smith, 10-208, 2 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 14-17, 199 yds, 4 TD
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 28-88. Receiving: Darren McFadden, 4-50, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The secondary has been a disaster over the last few weeks, and the running game has bogged down a bit too much, but the emergence of Casey Dick as a more reliable passer should be a huge help against LSU. After last year's disastrous game against the Tigers, his performance against Mississippi State should be just good enough to keep a little heat off Darren McFadden. Felix Jones was missed, but Peyton Hillis picked up a little of the slack. Jones should be back for LSU.

Nov. 10
Tennessee 34 ... Arkansas 13
Tennessee held Arkansas to 127 rushing yards and took command of the game from the start with a 16-yard Austin Rogers touchdown catch on the opening drive. The Vols got up 20-3 at the end of the first half helped by two Daniel Lincoln field goals and a 14-yard Josh Briscoe touchdown catch with ten seconds left in the half, and then they put it away on their opening drive of the second half on a 59-yard Arian Foster touchdown run. Arkansas finally got into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter on a nine-yard Michael Smith run to pull within 14, and got the ball back with a chance to make things interesting, but Jerod Mayo picked off a Casey Dick pass and took it 34 yards for a score. Arkansas committed 12 penalties for 61 yards, while Tennessee committed just three for 25.
Player of the game: Tennessee LB Jerod Mayo made nine tackles and returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 12-25, 128 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Arian Foster, 13-83, 1 TD. Receiving: Austin Rogers, 6-62, 1 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 12-22, 140 yds, 2 INT
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 22-117. Receiving: Marcus Monk, 3-26

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The consistency of the Arkansas running game just isn't there, while the secondary struggled again for a second straight week. It didn't give up a ton of yards to Tennessee's Erik Ainge, just 128, but it gave up just enough key throws early on to get down. When Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, who only ran three times for three yards, didn't get going and didn't hit any home runs, the game was over. The Hogs need to quickly regroup and beat Mississippi State next week, or a bowl game might hinge on beating LSU in Death Valley.

Nov. 3
Arkansas 48 ... South Carolina 36
Arkansas RB Felix Jones ran for 163 yards with touchdown dashes from 40, 72 and seven yards, out, and he only cranked out just over half the yards Darren McFadden came up with. McFadden set an SEC record with 323 yards, highlighted by a 80-yard dash midway through the fourth quarter on the first play after South Carolina had pulled within six on a one-yard Cory Boyd run. The Gamecocks stayed alive on 364 passing yards, and a one-yard touchdown run, from Blake Mitchell with two touchdown passes, but McFadden, who also threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Robert Johnson, and the Hog running game was too much, tearing off 541 yards. Arkansas averaged 9.3 yards per carry.
Player of the game: Arkansas RB Darren McFadden ran 34 times for 321 yards and a touchdown, caught a pass for four yards, and threw a pass for a 23-yard touchdown
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 27-51, 364 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 17-94, 1 TD. Receiving: Dion Lecorn, 8-109, 1 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 8-10, 86 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 35-323 yds, 1 TD. Receiving: Andrew Davie, 2-27

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... As if the combination of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones weren't legendary enough, now they come up with a game for the ages in the win over South Carolina. Forgetting that the Hogs ran for 541 yards and still needed almost a full four quarters to close it out, this was the game that cemented McFadden's legacy, and will always keep fans wondering what Jones, who averaged 13.6 yards per carry, would do if he got the ball more. On a roll, winning five of their last six game, the Hogs go to Tennessee with a chance to make some more SEC noise to shake up the East even further.

Oct. 27
Arkansas 58 ... Florida International 10
Arkansas
got four short rushing scores from Darren McFadden, a 16-yard Felix Jones scoring dash, and Marcus Monk's first touchdown catch of the year on a 13-yard grab on the way to an easy homecoming win. FIU got ten second quarter points on a 33-yard Greg Ellingson catch and a 35-yard Chris Abed field goal as time ran out, but that would be it for the fun as the Hogs scored 27 unanswered points highlighted by an 81-yard Michael Smith dash in the final minute. FIU turned the ball over seven times.
Player of the game:
Arkansas RB Darren McFadden ran 19 times for 61 yards and four touchdowns, and caught three passes for 22 yards
Stat Leaders: Arkansas - Passing: Nathan Emert, 13-25, 154 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Felix Jones, 17-89, 1 TD. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 6-77
Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 9-26, 93 yds, 1 TD, 5 INT
Rushing:
Wayne Younger, 14-124. Receiving: Elliott Dix, 2-48

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... With two straight easy wins after the tough loss to Auburn, the Hogs appear to be back on track going into a tough final month. Getting Marcus Monk back should help the passing game immeasurably, while the running attack keeps getting production from anyone who wants to run the ball. Is Nathan Emert going to get more of a chance under center? It'll be interesting to see how the quarterback situation progresses as the year finishes up. Yes, blasting Florida International is great for the confidence, but beating South Carolina next week would change the season around.

Oct. 20
Arkansas 44 ... Ole Miss 8
Arkansas ripped off 293 rushing yards and came up with four interceptions of Seth Adams on the way to the easy win. Felix Jones got the fun started for the Hogs with touchdown runs from 38 and 11 yards out, and Casey Dick threw three touchdown passes, on the way to a 37-0 lead before Ole Miss finally got on the board with a 37-yard Mike Wallace touchdown catch from Brent Schaeffer. Jones and Darren McFadden each went over 100 yards rushing.
Player of the game: Arkansas RB Felix Jones ran 15 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss - Passing: Brent Schaeffer, 5-13, 103 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 15-84. Receiving: Mike Wallace, 4-57, 1 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 11-17, 96 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 22-110. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 4-60, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Now that's how it's all supposed to work. Arkansas dominated Ole Miss with the running game, Casey Dick threw extremely well, coming up with his best game of the year, the defense crushed the Rebel O line with five sacks, and forced four interceptions. This is what Arkansas is supposed to do, and it was an extremely important win after the ugly loss to Auburn. With the sure-thing win over FIU next week, being 5-3 going into the South Carolina battle will be a plus for the team's shot at becoming a player in the bowl picture.

Oct. 13
Auburn 9 ... Arkansas 7
Auburn's Wes Byrum hit his third field goal of the game with 21 seconds to play, connecting from 20 yards out, to overcome a late Arkansas rally. Byrum made field goals from 22 and 38 yards, but he also missed from 36 and 46, opening the door for Arkansas to go on a six play, 71-yard drive with Lucas Miller making a leaping 13-yard touchdown catch with just 1:36 to play. But Auburn quickly went 50 yards in eight plays, thanks to a 30yard Robert Dunn catch and three Ben Tate runs. The vaunted Arkansas running game only gained 67 yards.
Player of the game: Auburn RB Ben Tate ran 23 times for 91 yards
Stat Leaders: Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 12-26, 111 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darren McFadden, 17-43. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 5-59
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 13-23, 101 yds
Rushing:
Ben Tate, 23-91. Receiving: Montez Billings, 5-31

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
While the 9-7 loss to Auburn is certainly painful, it was a major plus that the D was able to keep it close throughout considering the running game couldn't get going, and that Casey Dick and the passing game could come up with the big late touchdown drive to get in a position to win. But the D was cashed in the end and didn't appear to have anything left in the tank on Auburn's final drive. After three tough SEC losses that could've all gone the Hogs way, it might be letdown time. If the Hogs aren't geared up for next week, they could have big problems at Ole Miss.

Oct. 6
Arkansas 34 ... Chattanooga 15
It wasn't the typical Arkansas game, but after getting down 2-0 following a safety, Darren McFadden ran for a two-yard score, and Felix Jones added a touchdown run from 59 yards out to get up 24-9. Chattanooga made it a little bit interesting late in the third on a 65-yard Bryan Fitzgerald scoring dash, but Jones ended the drama with a one-yard score off an 68-yard drive. UTC's Antonio Miller completed just four of 22 passes for 11 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Player of the game: Arkansas RB Felix Jones ran 13 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns, adding a pair of catches for eight yards.
Stat Leaders: Chattanooga - Passing: Antonio Miller, 4-22, 11 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Bryan Fitzgerald, 14-123, 1 TD. Receiving: Blue Cooper, 2-5
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 13-22, 116 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Felix Jones, 13-141, 2 TDs. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 5-56, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Arkansas struggled a little too much with Chattanooga, but the running game did what it had to do, cranking out 257 yards and three scores. This should've been a game to work on the passing game, but Casey Dick only completed 13 of 22 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown with an interception. At least UTC's passing was worse, completing four of 22 passes. This was a game for Felix Jones. Darren McFadden was fine, but Jones took over and effectively ended the game. Now the intensity has to crank up against for Auburn.

Sept. 29
Arkansas 66 ... North Texas 7
Arkansas ripped off 416 rushing yards and scored the first 45 points of the game before North Texas put an end to the run with a one-yard Giovanni Vizza touchdown run late in the first half. Darren McFadden scored from two and four yards out, while Felix Jones ripped off scoring dashes from 35 and 71 yards away. Casey Dick threw thee touchdown passes, including a 61-yarder to London Crawford and a 37-yarder to Robert Johnson.
Player of the game: Arkansas RBs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones combined for 270 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries.
Stat Leaders: North Texas - Passing: Giovanni Vizza, 8-16, 118 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Micah Mosley, 11-68. Receiving: Brandon Jackson, 6-84
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 12-21, 210 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 19-138, 2 TD. Receiving: Robert Johnson, 4-71, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... That's what you're supposed to do to a team like North Texas. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones could've combined for 500 rushing yards had they rolled for en entire game, but they didn't need to with the Hogs cranking out 45 points in the first 25 minutes. Casey Dick still struggled with his consistency, but he came up with some big plays to add a little bit of balance. Against UT Chattanooga next week, the goal has to be to keep getting the passing game to work. McFadden and Jones don't need any more live practice time for the rest of the SEC season.

Sept. 22
Kentucky 42 ... Arkansas 29
Down 29-21 in the fourth quarter, Kentucky scored 21 unanswered points as Derrick Locke and Andre Woodson each ran for short scores and Keenan Burton caught a 32-yard touchdown pass. The Hogs were explosive with a 56-yard Darren McFadden touchdown run giving them a 20-7 first half lead, and a 82-yard Felix Jones kickoff return giving them their final points, but the UK defense forced three turnovers and didn't allow and offensive points in the second half.  Burton also added a 15-yard touchdown catch and Trevard Lindley scored on a 66-yard fumble return to give UK a 21-20 lead going into the fourth quarter, but a safety and the Jones score off the kickoff forced the Cats to make the comeback.
Player of the game: Kentucky QB Andre Woodson finished 21-of-39 for 265 yards and two touchdowns, adding another score on the ground.
Stat Leaders: Kentucky - Passing: Andre Woodson, 21-39, 265 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing: Tony Dixon, 9-78. Receiving: Steve Johnson, 7-111
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 13-28, 157 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 29-173, 1 TD. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 2-44

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Arkansas formula only works if the defense comes though. Darren McFadden was his typical brilliant self against Arkansas, and Felix Jones showed once again why he might be a first round draft pick, but Casey Dick, again, struggled to throw accurately, even when dared to throw. Not having Marcus Monk is proving to be a killer. However, the big problem is a defense that broke down for the second game in a row. After giving up the late score in the loss to Arkansas, it couldn't stop the Wildcats in the final ten minutes. Now there are two weeks off against North Texas and UT Chattanooga, and it's vital for Dick to find a groove, and for the pass defense to gain some confidence.

Sept. 15
Alabama 41 ... Arkansas 38
John Parker Wilson lofted a four-yard touchdown pass to Matt Caddell with eight seconds to play to avoid a massive collapse. The Tide got out to a 31-10 lead helped by two D.J. Hall touchdown catches and a two-yard Nick Walker scoring grab, but Arkansas came roaring back with 28 straight second half points on two Darren McFadden touchdown runs and two short Casey Dick scoring passes, with a seven-yard play to Peyton Hillis giving the Hogs a 38-31 lead with just over eight minutes to play. Leigh Tiffin nailed a 42-yarder to pull the Tide to within four. The defense came up with a stop, giving the Tide offense one last shot with 2:13 to play and no time outs remaining. Wilson took the offense 73 yards in seven plays for the win.
Player of the game: Alabama QB John Parker Wilson, completed 24 of 45 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 24-45, 327 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 20-96. Receiving: Matt Caddell, 9-91, 1 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 11-23, 145 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darren McFadden, 33-195, 2 TD. Receiving: London Crawford, 3-47
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's absolutely stunning that everyone knows what's coming, yet no one can stop it. West Virginia might be the only team that can erase a 21-point deficit with a 28-point run as quickly as Arkansas did, mainly thanks to the running game. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones continue to be unstoppable despite little help from the passing game. The defense was nowhere to be found against the Tide, but there was a consistently decent pass rush on John Parker Wilson. However, the pressure will have to be turned up a notch to get to Kentucky's Andre Woodson next week.

Sept. 1
Arkansas 46 ... Troy 26
Arkansas got 100-yard rushing days from both Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, and also got a 42-yard McFadden touchdown pass to Crosby Tuck as part of a big third quarter. After a tight first half, with Troy getting a 17-yard Gerald Tate touchdown catch and a one-yard Kenny Cattouse scoring run, Arkansas pulled away in the second half as Jones, who also tore off a 100-yard kickoff return for a score, ran for a 44-yard score. The Trojans got their final points on a two-yard Tanner Jones run as time ran out.
Player of the game ... Arkansas RB Darren McFadden ran 24 times for 151 yards and a touchdown, caught two passes for 30 yards,  and completed one pass for a 42-yard score.
Stat Leaders: Troy - Passing: Omar Haugabook, 15-43, 204 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamie Hampton, 3-72  Receiving: Gary Banks, 5-66
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 11-20, 108 yds
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 24-151, 1 TD  Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 6-39
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the win over Troy, but the real key was a not-that-bad performance from QB Casey Dick, who completed 11 of 20 passes and didn't throw a pick. Considering the way he ended last year, this was a Peyton Manning-like performance. To beat Alabama next week, the running game has to control the clock, and Dick has to be effective at opening things up deep. Right now, McFadden is the team's best passing option, and that's not a plus.

Sept. 1 - Troy
Offense: Spread it out with four wide receivers, let Sun Belt Player of the Year Omar Haugabook throw to the open guy, hope it all works. This isn't an explosive attack, and it won't be for a while with a mixed bag of talents on the front line trying to fit the puzzle. The running backs are fine with the return of Sean Dawkins helping out Kenny Cattouse, and Gary Banks and Mykeal Terry lead an inexperienced receiving corps that'll be fine. But it's all up to Haugabook. He's the difference between a second straight Sun Belt title and a losing season.
Defense:
Troy won the Sun Belt title despite a mediocre year from the defense. Now the D will be positively dominant with the best secondary and a defensive line that's either the best, or a close second behind Middle Tennessee's. Generating pressure won't be a problem with phenomenal pass rushers from every spot, while the secondary will use five and six defensive backs at times just to get all its talent on the field. The linebacking corps is the weakness of the defense by default considering how good the line and secondary will be, but it'll still be fantastic with Boris Lee and Marcus Richardson each deserving all-star consideration.


Sept. 15 – at Alabama
Offense: Major Applewhite takes over as offensive coordinator and will play around with several different formations and ideas, while trying to stick with Nick Saban's run-first philosophy. He'll incorporate a little bit of spread and four-wide sets. There's one problem; Bama might not have the backs to run well on a consistent basis. The strength is in the passing game with the great 1-2 receiving tandem of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown working with rising passer John Parker Wilson. The line welcomes back five starters led by soon to be All-Everything tackle Andre Smith.
Defense: Former Florida State defensive coordinator Kevin Steele came in and switched things up to a 3-4 in an attempt to jump-start a woeful pass rush by getting more production from the outside linebackers, led by a hybrid position of defensive lineman and linebacker, manned by Keith Saunders. Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood look the part of top ends, and now they have to start producing. The biggest problem is tackle, where former backup center Brian Motley, who looked great this spring, has to be an anchor for everything to work right. The back eight should be excellent, led by all-star corner Simeon Castille.

Sept. 22 - Kentucky
Offense: The Wildcat offense exploded last year thanks to the emergence of Andre Woodson as a superstar quarterback. It'll be bombs away once again, as Woodson chose to come back for his senior year and will have all his weapons at his disposal. Keenan Burton finally stayed healthy, and he became one of the SEC's most lethal receivers. Dicky Lyons, tight end Jacob Tamme, and running back Rafael Little are also back, with Little healthy enough again to be one of the SEC's best all-around offensive weapons. The problem is the line, which is mediocre at best, a liability at worst. It could be what keeps the Wildcats from being special.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is gone, and now former secondary coach Steve Brown will take over in an attempt to revive one of the nation's worst defenses. The run defense won't be any good again with little size up front, but the secondary should be better with excellent speed and good young prospects. It'll take awhile to see any improvement overall, but there's enough overall athleticism to expect things to be a bit better.

Sept. 29 - North Texas
Offense: The offense hasn't moved the ball in two years finishing 117th in the nation last season in yards and 115th in scoring. The look of the attack will change dramatically as new head coach Todd Dodge will incorporate his spread attack in an attempt to get something going. The backfield is solid with RB Jamario Thomas leading the way and a slew of veteran, yet mediocre quarterbacks returning. The receiving corps will need a while to jell with all the talent in the incoming freshman class, while the line will be a major problem early on.
Defense: The defense improved dramatically after making a drastic move to the 3-4. Now it'll go back to a traditional 4-3 and hope the overall experience and depth will pay off with more big plays after forcing just 14 turnovers. The linebackers will be solid with the return of Maurice Holman, Brandon Monroe and Derek Mendoza, while Aaron Weathers anchors a secondary that should be better in time. Generating a pass rush from the front four is a must, but Jeremiah Chapman will be a good end to work around.


Oct. 6 – UT Chattanooga

Oct. 13 - Auburn
Offense: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem is no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.
Defense: The whole will likely be better than the parts. Auburn's defensive front has the potential to be excellent thanks to the return of star end Quentin Groves for his senior year and with the emergence of Sen'Derrick Marks on the inside. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue, and coming up with sacks had better not be with a secondary that'll be shaky despite getting three starters back. The loss of corner David Irons will hurt. The linebacking corps isn't experienced, but it should be better than last year's group as the season goes on.


Oct. 20 – at Ole Miss
Offense: The offense needed more out of the running game after a woeful 2005, and it got it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming up with a 1,000-yard season as the workhorse for the offense. Now the offense has to figure out how to score after averaging 15.7 points per game (up from a whopping 13.45 per game in 2005). The passing game needs a lot of work, and the hope will be for the young receiving corps to step up and become passable. There will be a quarterback battle into the fall with Brent Schaeffer needing to prove he can move the offense, or he'll be unseated be Seth Adams, who's the more efficient passer. The massive line should be better after years of seasoning.
Defense: This should've been the year when everything started to come together for the Rebel defense, but the loss of all three starting linebackers, along with some major uncertainty in the secondary, will make this an inconsistent year, at least early on. The defensive line will be the strength with end Marcus Tillman on the verge of stardom, and the tackle combination of Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett to be among the best in the league ... if they stay healthy. The secondary lost some of its top safety prospects to the depleted linebacking corps, and the corners have to be far better. Ole Miss only picked off three passes last year. That can't happen again.

Oct. 27 - FIU
Offense New offensive coordinator James Coley has a lot of work to do with an offense that finished dead last in America in scoring averaging fewer than ten points per game and 116th in the nation in yards averaging 233 per outing. Eight starters return, including the entire offensive line, and there's good potential in the backfield with the 1-2 rushing punch of Julian Reams and A'mod Ned, but the passing game needs work with Paul McCall likely to take over at quarterback and no experience at receiver to rely on. 
Defense: The defense did what it could with no help from the offense, and now seven starters return with a shot to be among the league's best. The secondary gets all four starters back, led by Lionell Singleton at corner. The line is big and good with a pair of strong 300-pounders (Roland Clarke and Jonas Murrell) inside. Now for the problem: the great linebacking corps loses all three starters. The top four tacklers are gone, along with the top pass rushers. Keyonvis Bouie, Alexander Bostic, and Antwan Barnes were stars who won't be easily replaced.


Nov. 3 - South Carolina
Offense: This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.
Defense: The defense has plenty of returning experience, depth, young options waiting to step up and shine, and good stars to build around. MLB Jasper Brinkley is one of the best in America, and now his twin brother will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to help out (though he might end up back on the line). The secondary is emerging as a potential force if everyone starters to play consistently. There's speed at corner, depth and experience at safety, and an emerging star in SS Emanuel Cook. The defensive line has to be far better against the run, and it should be with the return of Marque Hall from injury and the emergence of freshman Ladi Ajiboye.


Nov. 10 – at Tennessee
Offense: The return of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator made a night-and-day difference in the passing game. Now he needs to get the running game to do more, and there needs to be even more from QB Erik Ainge after a nice bounceback year. The receiving corps loses the top three targets and the line loses the two best players, so it'll be up to the trio of Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to carry the running game and the offense. Ainge has to make everyone around him better until new producers at receiver emerge.
Defense: Is there a defense in America that's produced less with so much promise and potential? The Vols have a who's who of top high school prospects that haven't quite panned out, and now that has to change to have any hope of winning the SEC East. Jerod Mayo will move from the outside to the middle and Jonathan Hefney returns at free safety to give the Vols two All-America caliber defenders to build around. Now there needs to be more of a pass rush after coming up with an inexcusable 17 sacks, and the new starting tackles have to quickly emerge. The secondary has to replace three starters, but should be fine in time, while the linebacking corps, if healthy, will be among the SEC's best.

Nov. 17 – Mississippi State
Offense: It might not be saying much, but this should be the best offense yet under Sylvester Croom. The line gets four starters back, with the fifth spot occupied by Mike Brown, a starter late in the year and the best blocker up front. The receiving corps is easily the deepest area on the offense with good talent and a world of upside, but QB Michael Henig has to stay healthy and get them the ball consistently. Anthony Dixon is an All-SEC caliber running back, and true freshman Robert Elliott should become a fantastic backup. The overall depth is lacking, so injury problems could be disastrous.
Defense: The whole will be better than the parts. The Bulldogs couldn't hold down the better offensive teams last year, and things might not be better right off the bat with tremendous concerns all over the place after losing six key starters. There's plenty of speed and athleticism, but this is a young, inexperienced defense that'll have to force more turnovers and do a much better job of getting to the quarterback. End Titus Brown and defensive back Derek Pegues are All-SEC talents who have to be disruptive forces from day one. The line needs more pass rushers, the linebacking corps has to do more against the pass, and the secondary is relying on green corners so Pegues can play safety.

Nov. 24 – at LSU
Offense: There's a little bit of nervousness among LSU fans with a major change underway in the offense under new coordinator Gary Crowton. There'll be more option, more quick timing patterns, and quicker reads on the line. Fortunately, the loss of JaMarcus Russell won't hurt as much as it would for almost any other program with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux returning to run the attack. The backfield is loaded with options led by star newcomer Keiland Williams working behind a great line with enough returning experience to dominate. The receiving corps won't be as productive without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet and Brandon LeFall will be a great 1-2 combination.
Defense: The nation's number three defense in each of the last two years might crank things up yet another notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the average to bad teams.


 


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