ARKANSAS REPLACED coach Bobby Petrino with John L. Smith in April after Petrino was found to have engaged in an improper relationship with a female football program employee. But an equally significant coaching change took place last December, when defensive coordinator Paul Haynes was hired away from Ohio State. The Razorbacks allowed an average of 174.3 rushing yards per game during the 2011 regular season, ninth worst in the SEC. But with Haynes on the sideline for the Cotton Bowl, the Hogs held Kansas State to 87 yards rushing (106 below their average) while finishing with seven sacks in a 29--16 victory. The offense is led by two Heisman candidates in quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis.
DEFENSIVE END Austin Flynn, a junior transfer from Los Angeles Harbor College, had 11 sacks and 21 QB hurries last year. He participated in spring practices (while rocking a beard that made him a minor Internet sensation) and should make an immediate impact.
COBI HAMILTON caught a career-high 34 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns last season. But with Jarius Wright and Joe Adams gone to the NFL, the 6'3", 209-pound senior—a versatile threat who is capable of going over the middle or deep—should thrive as the No. 1 receiver.
ARKANSAS LOST only twice last season, to national champ Alabama and to runner-up LSU. A favorable schedule brings both those schools to Fayetteville this year (the Crimson Tide on Sept. 15, the Tigers on Nov. 23). After finding themselves at the center of the college football world for all the wrong reasons in the spring, the Razorbacks have a chance to make the Petrino scandal a footnote to 2012. Although Arkansas has to play early back-to-back road games at Texas A&M and Auburn, this year's squad has a genuine shot at being the school's first undefeated team since 1964.