If there's one thing about my prediction for Arkansas this year that worries me the most in the abstract, it's that I'm calling for a net increase of zero wins. Contrary to what I thought before I ran the numbers, most new coaches in the SEC actually tend to win more in their first year than those coaches' predecessors did in the last year.
Using Phil Steele and some quick calculations -- all while trying to control for bizarre situations like the Bobby Johnson to Robbie Caldwell to James Franklin revolving door -- I came up with an average pick-up of about 1.2 wins in coaching changes at SEC schools since 2003. (I didn't use Texas A&M because they weren't in the SEC for Mike Sherman's last year.) Excluding the changes that included Houston Nutt -- because, Houston Nutt -- I got about 0.9 wins gained. Both round to a game gained, give or take.
On second thought, of course, this isn't really all that remarkable. Head coaching changes tend to take place at schools that had very bad years, so that when Sylvester Croom takes over a Mississippi State team that went 2-10 the year before, he can go 3-8 and pick up 1.5 games. That doesn't make him a great coach, nor does it change the fact that the Bulldogs missed a bowl game by a woeful amount, but it does count as an increase for the purposes of our exercise.
The second thought with Arkansas comes from this: Last year's cross-division opponents were South Carolina and Kentucky, while this year's cross-division opponents are South Carolina and Florida. Kentucky came to Fayetteville and Arkansas is headed to Florida. That's a game right there, which pretty much cancels out any assumption that Arkansas will win against all three cupcakes this year, as opposed to the two that didn't beat them last season.
That brings us down to my more concrete concerns: the games at Rutgers and against Mississippi State. If I've overestimated the Bulldogs -- and Arkansas fans who have read the blog for a while can attest to the fact that I've done so before -- then the late-season visit to Little Rock could be perilous to them. Arkansas' record might not pick up that much in this prediction, but if it's off by a little, it might be off by two games -- and that would be enough to get the Hogs back to the postseason. For now, we'll say no.
Place: 6th in the SEC West
Record: 4-8, 1-7 SEC
Could be: 3-9 to 8-4
Best chance for an upset: at FLORIDA
8.31.13 | LOUSIANA (-LAFAYETTE) | LIKELY WIN
9.7.13 | SAMFORD (Little Rock) | WIN
9.14.13 | SOUTHERN MISS | LIKELY WIN
9.21.13 | at RUTGERS | POSSIBLE LOSS
9.28.13 | TEXAS A&M | PROBABLE LOSS
10.5.13 | at FLORIDA | LIKELY LOSS
10.12.13 | SOUTH CAROLINA | PROBABLE LOSS
10.19.13 | at ALABAMA | LOSS
11.2.13 | AUBURN | POSSIBLE WIN
11.9.13 | at OLE MISS | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.23.13 | MISSISSIPPI STATE (Little Rock) | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.29.13 | at LSU | PROBABLE LOSS
Key (from least likely to win to most): Loss, Likely Loss, Probable Loss, Possible Loss, Possible Win, Probable Win, Likely Win, Win