- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The SEC slate for Bret Bielema isn't exactly a great welcoming present from the league.
Nonconference opponents (2012 records)
Aug. 31: LA-Lafayette (9-4)
Sept. 7: Samford (7-4)
Sept. 14: Southern Miss (0-12)
Sept. 21: Rutgers (9-4)
SEC home games
Sept. 28: Texas A&M
Oct. 12: South Carolina
Nov. 2: Auburn
Nov. 23: Mississippi State
SEC road games
Oct. 5: at Florida
Oct. 19: at Alabama
Nov. 9: at Ole Miss
Nov. 29: LSU
Gut-check time: That game at Rutgers to close the nonconference schedule is a big one for the Razorbacks. They fell at home to the Scarlet Knights last year and would love to not only get revenge but get some positive momentum going into SEC play. This is a tough game for a team that has question marks all over, but a win could really put Arkansas on the right path in Bielema's first season.
Trap game: How about the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette? This isn't a game that the new-look Hogs can take likely, as the Ragin' Cajuns return 13 starters from a team that went 9-4 last year and nearly beat Florida in the Swamp last year.
Snoozer: A week before the Hogs travel to New Brunswick, N.J., to take on Rutgers, they'll host a Southern Miss team that went 0-12 last season.
Telltale stretch: Arkansas has quite the gauntlet ahead of itself, starting with that road trip to Rutgers on Sept. 21. The Hogs then host Texas A&M a week later before having a home game with South Carolina sandwiched between games at Florida and Alabama. What makes things worse for the Hogs is that they don't have a bye during that stretch.
Final analysis: The SEC didn't do Bielema any favors with the schedule in his first year. After four consecutive games against nonconference foes, Arkansas takes on four straight SEC opponents that will likely begin the year ranked in the top 10. Stealing a game during that stretch will be a big accomplishment for this team. After a bye week following the Alabama game, things soften up somewhat with a home game against Auburn, a trip to Ole Miss and then another home game against Mississippi State. If Arkansas wants to make a bowl, the Hogs will probably have to win at least two of those games. Things then end with a trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. No coach would want this conference slate, let alone a first-year one.
14hGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough