If Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino has any friends in the Southeastern Conference office, they must not work in the scheduling department.
First of all, the Razorbacks have the misfortune to draw the Eastern Division's two top teams, Florida
, as this year's crossover foes.
Secondly, Arkansas must face the top three teams in the West (Ole Miss, LSU, Alabama) AND the top team in America (Florida) on the road. All four foes will be ranked in the preseason top 25.
Thirdly, the Hogs have to play Georgia (Sept. 19 in Fayetteville) and Bama (Sept. 26 in Tuscaloosa) on consecutive weekends, then play Florida (Oct. 17 at Gainesville) and Ole Miss (Oct. 24 at Oxford) on back-to-back Saturdays.
Petrino's goal is leading the Razorbacks to a division title. This year, though, he may be leading the Hogs to slaughter. Their conference schedule is a real killer.
Fortunately for Arkansas, its non-conference lineup – Missouri State, Texas A&M, Eastern Michigan and Troy – is considerably more manageable.
Missouri State, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, went 4-7 last year with a 57-13 loss to Oklahoma State and a 42-0 drubbing by Northern Iowa.
A&M staggered home 4-8 last fall with lopsided losses to Texas (49-9) and Oklahoma (66-28) along the way. Instead of College Station, it will face the Hogs at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Oct. 3.
Eastern Michigan went 3-9 in 2008, including a 37-0 loss to Northern Illinois.
The strongest non-conference foe on Arkansas's schedule is Troy. The Trojans went 8-5 last fall, gave LSU trouble before bowing 40-31 at Baton Rouge and earned a berth in the New Orleans Bowl.
Bottom line: Petrino has a much better team in Year 2 than he did in Year 1 but a meat-grinder schedule could prevent the improvement from showing up in the won-lost record.