TRips: SEC West thoughts revisited

Revisiting three predictions for the SEC West in 2012:

Even with Petrino's departure, a 4-8 season isn't what anyone envisioned for Wilson in 2012.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson will miss Jarius Wright and Joe Adams more than he'll miss Bobby Petrino.

TRips: July 19, 2012: The Razorbacks welcome back a talented and SEC-seasoned quarterback, so coaching up the position, something Petrino does as well as any coach in football, won't be an issue. With Bobby's younger brother, Paul, still on staff in Fayetteville, there will be a sense of familiarity in the meeting room, which means Wilson's week-to-week preparation shouldn't be adversely affected.

More so than his former head coach, Wilson will miss Wright and Adams, a tandem that was on the receiving end of nearly half of Wilson's passing yardage total (3,638) and 15 of his 24 touchdown passes a season ago. Mix in the graduation of Greg Childs and arrests of Marquel Wade, who was being counted on to replace Adams in the slot, and Maudrecus Humphrey and it's looking like Cobi Hamilton and a bunch of new guys on the outside for the Hogs.

In addition to Hamilton, Wilson will have one of the league's top tight ends at his disposal in Chris Gragg. He'll also be supported by a plethora of talented backs, highlighted by the expected return of Knile Davis.

But what happens if the Razorbacks can't run the ball against Alabama, something Petrino's offenses failed to do in his four seasons on the job? Will Hamilton and Gragg be enough? For that matter, how many hits will Wilson, brutalized by the UA pass rush a season ago, be able to absorb in his second go around with the Crimson Tide?

Looking down the road a year or so, that's when things will get dicey for a program that reached BCS heights due in large part to the guy behind center. And that's why interim coach John L. Smith likely needs a twelve-win season (minimum) to remove his part-time tag.

Maybe Brandon Allen, currently projected as the heir to Wilson, will prove to be the next Joe Ferguson in time. As it sits right now, though, Arkansas doesn't have a Wilson-waiting-in-the-wings scenario like it had a year ago.

That's a problem for another day, one Arkansas fans hope to put off for as long as possible. With or without Petrino, the bill was coming due at quarterback in 2013. And depending on how some fresh faces come along in the next month, it may be coming due at wide receiver in 2012.

How it actually played out: Wilson missed a lot of things in 2012, including the Alabama game after sustaining a concussion one week earlier in a loss to Louisiana-Monroe that sent the Razorbacks' season into a death spiral.

As a result, Arkansas fans got an earlier glimpse of Allen than they would have liked. The redshirt freshman completed 10 of 18 passes for 60 yards and two interceptions in a 52-0 loss to the Crimson Tide. He was also sacked three times.

As for the running game, the Razorbacks averaged 1.6 yards per carry in a 58-yard rushing performance against Alabama. For the season, Arkansas ranked last in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 118.7 yards per game.

More than anything, it was a year of turnover(s) in Fayetteville, both on the field and off. From Petrino's Harley ride gone horribly wrong to the Razorbacks finishing tied for last among 120 FBS teams in turnover margin at minus-19, Arkansas football gave it away like no other.

Where was Zach Mettenberger last year? That's the question LSU fans will be asking after the Tigers' season opener.

TRips: July 19, 2012: And that's if Mettenberger's stat line against North Texas is 13 of 20 for 178 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Let's face it, the bar for the next guy wasn't set very high by Jordan Jefferson in the Tigers' last outing.

While there will be some decent challenges for the junior -- Florida and South Carolina come to mind -- prior to the Alabama game, we won't truly find out about Mettenberger until November 3.

Until then, the LSU offense will look to wear down defenses with its offensive line and deep stable of running backs, with some Mettenberger mixed in. Against Alabama, though, something more will be required of the Georgia transfer.

Mettenberger will make throws Jordan Jefferson couldn't, but he won't be the threat to run that Jefferson was, either. In other words, Mettenberger will be more Jarrett Lee than Jefferson. And lest we forget, Lee, who morphed into Bert Jones in the eyes of Tiger fans following Jefferson's championship game performance, threw seven interceptions in four career games against Alabama.

Bottom line: While it's reasonable to think LSU is in line for a serious upgrade at quarterback, the answer Tiger fans are hoping for won't come until the final month of the regular season.

How it actually played out: The Mettenberger era didn't get off to a rousing start in Red Stick as the LSU passing game strongly resembled the 2011 version early in the season, especially in games against Auburn and Florida.

However, a promising finish to a 24-19 win over Texas A&M, which included a 29-yard touchdown pass from Mettenberger to Kadron Boone in the second half, carried over into the Alabama game. While it came in a loss, Mettenberger found his SEC legs against the Crimson Tide, completing 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown.

Mettenberger posted an efficiency rating of 113 or better in each of the final five games of the regular season, leaving LSU fans hopeful that the quarterback they expected to see at the start of the season will be the one they get for all of the 2013 campaign.

Dan Mullen will beat an SEC West team not named Ole Miss.

TRips: July 19, 2012: Considering that Alabama, LSU and Arkansas outscored State by a combined margin of 87-30 a season ago, it will have to come from either Auburn or Texas A&M, both of whom travel to Starkville this season. Lose both and the Bulldogs' bowl win streak may not reach three.

How it actually played out: Mullen celebrated first-ever wins over Western Division foes Auburn and Arkansas by losing to arch-rival Ole Miss for the first time in his tenure. Here's guessing State fans liked things better the old way.

Also see:
12 Offensive Predictions Revisited
12 Defensive Predictions Revisited
TRips: SEC East thoughts revisited
Reier's All-SEC and SEC predictions ballot

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