Well, at the least the college football blogosphere is starting to question all the preseason love directed the Hogs’ way.
Here’s Matt Hinton’s take on the lofty rankings Arkansas is garnering on preseason Top 25 lists, for example:
… In every case, those positions also establish Arkansas as the No. 3 team in the SEC, behind only Alabama and Florida – even according to Staples, who declines to rank Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina or Tennessee at all – and thus the odds-on favorite to challenge the Gator-Tide duopoly at the top of the conference. Relative to the SEC standings, that’s nearly unprecedented: The preseason consensus has only pegged the Hogs higher than third in the West Division once (in 1999) since they joined the league in 1992. In other words, this outfit will be expected to at least match (and possibly exceed) the best seasons in the school’s SEC era.
That being said, Matt’s actually pretty sanguine about Arkansas’ chances this season. Not so Brian Cook, who looks at the Razorbacks and sees this year’s Ole Miss.
… This year’s Ole Miss, at least as far as upstart SEC programs getting “this ballot isn’t last year’s ballot” votes in a lot of preseason polls, is Arkansas. The Razorbacks have the touted junior-to-be quarterback that NFL teams are supposedly drooling over (although in Ryan Mallett’s case his close resemblance to an artillery weapon will see him, you know, drafted, even if he has a Snead-like addiction to living dangerously), the season-ending push, and the bowl win. Well… sort of. Arkansas’s bowl win was not over a one-loss top five team but East Carolina, and the season-ending explosion came against Eastern Michigan, South Carolina, Troy, Mississippi State, and LSU, with the LSU game that finished the regular season an actual loss. But by God, Ryan Mallett can throw it through a wall.
He then slides into the regression to the mean/turnover margin discussion that Jerry Hinnen and I have engaged in this week, and concludes with this:
… Arkansas, obviously, bounced up a whopping 22 turnovers [Ed. – I think it’s 24.] and will now be sliding back into the back, in all likelihood. Having a veteran quarterback will help, but not enough to keep that turnover margin at 15. The Tebow child returned this year for Florida and the Gators’ margin plummeted from +22 to +7.
Arkansas this year is likely to be Arkansas last year: wildly erratic, capable of beating anyone in the league, capable of losing to anyone. On the other hand, may I turn your attention to Georgia?
What he’s hinting at the end there, Dawg fans, is something Jerry noted (which I copied as an update in my earlier post that probably was passed over and bears repeating now).
… Here’s what jumps out at me: from ‘02 to ‘08 eight teams had margins greater than or equal to either +15 or -15, and seven of those saw their margin swing by a minimum of 13 turnovers the following season. (2003 MSU is the sole exception.) Average swing for those seven teams? 16.4.
This would seem to indicate that Alabama may have a tougher time repeating than expected, and that Arkansas–hey, they were +15 last year, whaddya know–may also have a hard time living up to the hype.
On the flip side of that, how good a year do you think 2010 can be for Georgia if it merely breaks even on turnovers?