In his second season at Arkansas, Bobby Petrino has the Razorbacks (7-5, 3-5) in a bowl game. They will face East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
It could have been the AT&T Cotton Bowl had they been able to hold onto a late lead against Arkansas the final weekend of the regular season. Defensive issues plagued the Hogs most of the season, especially when it came to shutting down the pass.
They lost to Georgia at home despite scoring 41 points and lost the finale despite scoring 30. Perhaps their best defensive moment came in a 23-20 loss at Florida.
What the Hogs did right was move the football and score points with the best of them. Ryan Mallett was a perfect fit for Petrino’s system and took turns spreading the ball around to the playmakers on this team. Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright combined for 18 touchdown catches.
Arkansas won four of its last five games. Included were impressive victories over South Carolina and Mississippi State. But the one that will stick with them was that overtime loss at LSU when they allowed the Tigers to drive down the field in regulation and force the extra period.
Offensive MVP: Ryan Mallett, QB. Mallett was so good that the Hogs are worried about him turning pro after just one season at Arkansas. The transfer from Michigan led the SEC with 3,425 yards passing and 29 touchdowns and just got better and better as the season progressed.
Defensive MVP: Malcolm Sheppard, DT. He was one of the most underrated players in the SEC a year ago, but there’s nothing underrated about Sheppard after his second straight All-SEC caliber season. He was one of the top interior linemen in the league, and his 11 tackles for loss tied Kentucky’s Corey Peters and Ole Miss’ Jerrell Powe as the most by a defensive tackle in the SEC.
Turning point: The 44-23 win over Auburn the fifth week of the season was the key victory for the Hogs. They were 2-2 at that point, but had lost both of their SEC games, one of those at home. They couldn’t afford another home loss that early in the season.
What’s next: So much rides on whether Mallett decides to turn pro or stay in school. He’s trying to get an accurate gauge on where he would go if he does elect to enter the draft. If he comes back, when you look at all the returning talent around him on offense, the Hogs have a chance to contend in the West if they can solve some of their defensive problems.