Today, we dissect Arkansas' schedule as the Hogs look to break through in the Western Division:
Nonconference opponents (with 2011 records)
Sept. 1: Jacksonville State (7-4)
Sept. 8: Louisiana-Monroe (4-8), in Little Rock
Sept. 22: Rutgers (9-4)
Nov. 3: Tulsa (8-5)
SEC home games
Sept. 15: Alabama
Oct. 13: Kentucky
Oct. 27: Ole Miss, in Little Rock
Nov. 23: LSU
SEC road games
Sept. 29: at Texas A&M
Oct. 6: at Auburn
Nov. 10: at South Carolina
Nov. 17: at Mississippi State
Gut-check time: The two biggies are Alabama and LSU, both at home. Both games are huge if the Hogs are going to get over that hump and get to Atlanta to play for the SEC championship. But if we have to pick one, we'll go with Alabama's visit to Razorback Stadium on Sept. 15. It's a game that could set the tone for Arkansas' entire season, and what's more, the Hogs haven't beaten the Crimson Tide since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. That's five straight losses. They were close two years ago in Fayetteville, but need to find a way to finish the job this time and take the early lead in the West race.
Trap game: The Rutgers game the week after Alabama comes to Fayetteville has danger written all over it. Even though the game's at home, the Scarlet Knights should be very good on defense and will challenge for the Big East title. The Hogs are probably going to be fighting the Alabama hangover, too, and that's whether they win or lose against the Crimson Tide.
Snoozer: Ole Miss found out the hard way not to sleep on Jacksonville State a few years ago, but the second game of the season against Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock has a chance to be one of those games where guys are playing in the second half and aren't even listed on the roster.
Telltale stretch: We'll find out about the Hogs in November. They hit the road for back-to-back games at South Carolina on Nov. 10 and then Mississippi State on Nov. 17. Then on a short week, they come back home to face LSU on Nov. 23 in Fayetteville. Making it through that stretch unscathed would be a monumental task for any team in America.
Final analysis: The best news for the Hogs is that they get both Alabama and LSU in Razorback Stadium this season. In the past, they'd always played LSU in Little Rock, which is a home game for Arkansas, but still a three-hour trip across the state. Arkansas is just 1-5 against Alabama and LSU the past three seasons. It's going to take at least a split against those two teams to have a chance at the Western Division title. The other game that looms large for the Hogs this season is the trip to South Carolina. They have owned the Gamecocks, who will likely start this season ranked in the top 10 nationally. Arkansas has won three straight in the series and five of the last six, and none of the last three contests has been close. It's worth noting that South Carolina does have a bye week prior to Arkansas coming to town this season. With Texas A&M joining the SEC, that game will be in College Station instead of Cowboys Stadium. And in addition to the grueling three-game stretch to end the season, the Hogs have to go on the road to face Texas A&M and Auburn in back-to-back weeks after getting Alabama and Rutgers at home. In fact, Arkansas is the only team in the SEC in 2012 that has to go on the road two different times to face SEC foes in consecutive weeks. They travel to Texas A&M on Sept. 29 and Auburn on Oct. 6 and then to South Carolina on Nov. 10 and Mississippi State on Nov. 17.