There's not a lot to talk about at Arkansas -- unless you count a dramatic coaching change, multiple Heisman candidacies and a team with a serious shot at upending the SEC West hierarchy.
The No. 10 Razorbacks have closed the talent gap with Alabama and LSU, and they get both division rivals in Fayetteville. The Sept. 15 game against the Crimson Tide will shape the entire season.
“It's not the season, but it is crucial,” Smith 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.”
Here are opposing Arkansas scenarios that could unfold:
Best-case scenario: QB Tyler Wilson, RB Knile Davis, WR Cobi Hamilton and TE Chris Gragg prove too much for an Alabama defense replacing seven starters, vaulting the Razorbacks to a Top 5 ranking. The offense shows it can roll up points without the “genius” of Bobby Petrino, easing the burden on an improving defense led by LB Alonzo Highsmith (80 tackles, 4.5 sacks last year). The Hogs roll off six more wins before barely losing at South Carolina.
On Friday, Nov. 23, with the SEC West at stake, Wilson wins the Heisman with a 300-yard game against an LSU secondary missing Tyrann Mathieu. The Razorbacks beat Georgia in an SEC title game shootout, lose another high-scoring affair to USC and finish 12-2.
Worst-case scenario: Alabama controls the clock with its three All-American offensive linemen and Eddie Lacy, keeping Wilson on the sideline. TV directors show 17 cutaways of a frustrated Smith imploring his defense to get off the field.
Arkansas goes 1-1 on each of its brutal back-to-backs: Sept. 29-Oct 6 at A&M, at Auburn; Nov. 10-17 at South Carolina, at Mississippi State. As in recent years, the defense (22.2 ppg allowed last season) remains a weak link. LSU powers through the Hogs with its four-headed backfield, dropping Arkansas to 8-4.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from SEC bloggers Daniel Lewis and Larry Hartstein, follow @CBSSportsSEC.