If Arkansas is to ever overtake LSU and Alabama in the SEC West, now is the time. The Hogs get the Tigers and Crimson Tide at Razorback Stadium.
The last nine times Arkansas was the home team against LSU, the game was played in Little Rock, three hours from campus. Officials brought it back to accommodate more fans: Razorback Stadium seats 72,000, about 18,000 more than War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Arkansas' closing stretch -- at South Carolina, at Mississippi State, LSU -- is as tough as any in the country. The Razorbacks also face consecutive road games at Texas A&M and Auburn, making Arkansas the only SEC team that twice plays back-to-back road games against conference foes.
Must-see matchup: vs. Alabama, Sept. 15
The Razorbacks haven't beaten the Crimson Tide since 2006. But two years ago in Fayetteville, Arkansas led until Mark Ingram's touchdown run with 3:18 left. Last year Arkansas ran for 17 yards on 19 carries. The return of Knile Davis means that won't happen again. Coach John L. Smith knows this is an early chance to shift the SEC West's balance of power.
“It's not the season, but it is crucial,” he told ESPN. “It's vital that we go to the field and it's vital that we win that football game. For us to show everybody and to show ourselves that we have a chance, we've got to go win that game.”
Upset alert: at Mississippi State, Nov. 17
The Razorbacks are 5-1 in their last six trips to Starkville, but this visit is sandwiched between showdowns with South Carolina and LSU. The Bulldogs return seven starters from a deep defense that ranked fourth in the SEC and 16th nationally (19.7 points). Taking over full-time at quarterback, Tyler Russell should boost the passing game and allow the Bulldogs to go long more often.
It's a breeze: Oct. 13 through Nov. 3 -- vs. Kentucky, bye, vs. Ole Miss, vs. Tulsa
In a four-week span, the Razorbacks host three teams that went a combined 15-22 last year. (The Ole Miss game will be at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.) It's a stretch that should burnish Tyler Wilson's Heisman candidacy, especially the Nov. 3 game against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane ranked 117th in pass defense last season, allowing an average of 286.3 yards per game.
Brutal stretch: Nov. 10 through Nov. 23 -- at South Carolina, at Mississippi State, vs. LSU
After two difficult road games, the Razorbacks must prepare for LSU on a six-day week. Arkansas has won three straight over South Carolina, averaging 39.3 points, but the Gamecocks get a week off before this one.
Sept. 1: Jacksonville State
Sept. 8: at Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 15: Alabama
Sept. 22: Rutgers
Sept. 29: at Texas A&M
Oct. 6: at Auburn
Oct. 13: Kentucky
Oct. 27: Ole Miss
Nov. 3: Tulsa
Nov. 10: at South Carolina
Nov. 17: at Mississippi State
Nov. 23: LSU
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from SEC bloggers Daniel Lewis and Larry Hartstein, follow@CBSSportsSEC.