Yes, football season is upon us once again and we Arkansans are hoping our beloved Razorbacks do something this year.
My dad tells me that he was in a restaurant last year when the Hogs were in the midst of their 5-7 season and two fellow (who had obviously been drinking a lot) boldly predicted the Razorbacks wouldn’t lose a game this season.
Most of us haven’t lost our heads and are hoping for the team to have a decent season. And we’ve got some reasons to be excited. First and foremost, there’s Ryan Mallett – the Batesville, Ark., native who went to Michigan and then came back home to Arkansas. He was a heavily recruited quarterback in 2006 and we’re hoping the fellow follows through on his promise this season at Arkansas.
Hey, we’re not used to having top-notch quarterbacks at the University of Arkansas, so seeing one on the field will be a bit of a novelty for us. Our former head coach, that damned Houston Nutt, didn’t go out of his way to recruit quarterbacks and managed to ruin some good ones when they fell in his lap. Let’s see what Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino can do with a talented passer, huh?
Let’s not forget that Michael Smith – the running back who was one of the few highlights on the offense last year – will be back this season. He’ll be joined by Dennis Johnson in the backfield and here’s hoping the running game will be solid.
Yes, Michael Smith was pretty much the running game last year and the offense was just plain dreadful. It appears that the passing game will be solid, too, provided Mallett can find some targets. Last year, those quarterbacking brothers Casey and Nathan Dick had trouble finding receivers. We’re not sure if the receivers were just terrible or if the Dick brothers were just lousy quarterbacks.
The receivers are improved this year and perhaps the most impressive of all is tight end D.J. Williams. Of course, the question remains – will the offensive line hold up long enough to protect Mallett so he can throw to a receiver or two? That was a problem last year as that offensive line folded faster than Superman on laundry day. Here’s hoping Petrino has beaten the line into shape.
The defense was terribly weak last year, but I always wondered – was it really just bad or were the players worn out because the pitiful offense never gave them a chance to rest? Again, that’s a question that will have to be answered throughout the season.
Having said all of that, here are my predictions for the season. These, I’m sure, will hold up pretty well.
Sept. 5 – Missouri State. Arkansas will whip the socks off of Missouri State. That’s why teams like Missouri State are on the schedule. That one will be an easy win.
Sept. 19 – Georgia. It’s rarely good when Georgia comes to town. They dominated the Hogs during the Nutt years and there’s no reason to think that will change this season. There’s a loss.
Sept. 26 – at Alabama. It’s no fluke that Alabama is ranked #5 in the preseason polls. Playing Alabama this season will be bad enough for almost anyone and you can double the misery when a team faces the Crimson Tide at home. There’s a loss.
Oct. 3 – at Texas A&M. Ah, the Aggies are rebuilding, too. Still, considering the weak showing by the Hogs last year in almost every game, I’ll have to call that one a loss.
Oct. 10 – Auburn. Yes, another team that’s rebuilding. Fortunately, they’re coming to Arkansas. Home field advantage will be a big factor here. And, we’ll have a win.
Oct. 17 – at Florida. Arkansas beat Florida once upon a time. Honest! The losing streak will continue this season against the preseason No. 1. That’s a loss.
Oct. 24 – at Ole Miss. Yes, the Rebels are ranked No. 8 in the country right now. However, that ranking doesn’t take the team’s biggest liability into account – head coach Houston “Boxcar” Nut. Nutt frustrated Arkansas fans for years while he goofed off in this state and he’ll annoy Ole Miss fans before long. There’s a win for the Hogs because that’s the kind of game that Nutt has fumbled with inept coaching for years. By the way, I chose the “Boxcar” nickname for Nutt around 2002 because the man is a straight up bum.
Oct. 31 – Eastern Michigan. Another rent-a-win.
Nov. 7 – South Carolina. Poor old South Carolina. That team never can get it together. The Hogs will win this one.
Nov. 14 – Troy. The third – and final – rent-a-win of the year.
Nov. 21 – Mississippi State. Remember when Mississippi State fielded great teams? I can’t recall when exactly that was, either. There’s nothing impressive about them this year, so the Hogs will win that one.
Nov. 29 – at LSU. The preseason No. 11 will clobber the Hogs unless half the team comes down with swine flu. There’s a loss for the Razorbacks.
So, we’re looking at a 7-5 season with three wins against nonconference opponents, meaning the Razorbacks should rack up a 4-5 SEC record this year. Ugly but true. Bank on it. Hey, they’ll get better.