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Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Tide schedule preview: Arkansas

By Alex Scarborough

Editor's note: The season is nearly upon us and TideNation is taking steps to get you ready for every one of Alabama's regular season opponents. Every Tuesday and Thursday we'll go through each week of the Crimson Tide's schedule, starting with the season-opener against Virginia Tech and closing with the finale against Auburn.

The rundown
2012 overall record: 4-8
2012 SEC record: 2-6, sixth in the SEC West
Record all time against Alabama: 8-13
Last meeting: Alabama 52, Arkansas 0 in 2012

Starters returning
Offense: 5; Defense: 8; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
DE Trey Flowers, Rohan Gaines, WR Javontee Herndon, DT Byran Jones, CB Tevin Mitchel, DE Chris Smith, C Travis Swanson, S RB Jonathan Williams

Key losses
OG Alvin Bailey, P Dylan Breeding, RB Knile Davis, WR Cobi Hamilton, RB Dennis Johnson, S Ross Rasner, QB Tyler Wilson

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Dennis Johnson (757 yards)
Passing: Tyler Wilson (3,387 yards)
Receiving: Cobi Hamilton (1,335 yards)
Tackles: Ross Rasner (92)
Sacks: Chris Smith* (9.5)
Interceptions: Ross Rasner (3)

What they're saying:
Bret Bielema
Bret Bielema hasn't been shy in his first few months on the job at Arkansas.
"The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn't come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama. You can take Saban's record when he was at Michigan State and when he was a coach in the Big Ten and put it against mine, and he can't compare." -- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, to the Saline County Razorback Club in March.

Three things to watch:

1. Stirring the pot: You can't say Bret Bielema isn't a confident coach. He did win an impressive 68 games at Wisconsin before taking the Arkansas job. You can, however, say he swung for the fences a little early when he took a shot at both Alabama and Nick Saban before he'd even begun spring camp. Of course the inflammatory comments weren't supposed to leave the booster club gathering, but they nonetheless did. Consider it lesson No. 1 in coaching in the SEC: nothing is private. And now that his jab at the defending champ is public, expect it to be plastered all over the locker room prior to the Razorbacks' trip to Tuscaloosa in mid-October.

2. Starting from the ground up: Bielema didn't inherit the worst situation in Fayetteville, but he didn't inherit the best, either. What Bobby Petrino gave up, John L. Smith did his best to blow up in a disastrous, four-win 2012 season. Gone is starting quarterback Tyler Wilson, along with the top two running backs, the top receiver and the top tackler from a season ago. Brandon Allen is the frontrunner to start at quarterback, but how he'll do is anyone's guess. His one start last season was against Alabama, when he threw for a lackluster 60 yards while Wilson was left to watch from the bench while recovering from a concussion suffered in an overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe.

3. Bringing smash-mouth football back: It's no secret that Bielema likes to play tough football. A former nose guard at Iowa, Bielema loves to run the ball and let his linemen do the heavy lifting. You'll remember just how often Montee Ball carried the rock for the Badgers -- a staggering 663 carries in his final two seasons at running back. Bielema said that won't change in Arkansas, where the major emphasis will be winning up front. "I want them to feel it on the day of the game and the day after," he told ESPN. With sack master Chris Smith at defensive end and potential all-SEC center Travis Swanson in place, Bielema has the right pieces to build around moving forward.