Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How 'bout Dem Hawgs!!

This past Saturday evening, after the Arkansas Razorbacks beat the South Carolina Gamecocks 26-20, I called my good friend Nettiemac from my cell phone and uttered these words:

"Yeah, we won, but it sure wasn't pretty..."

Nevertheless, this past Monday, I had a chicken dinner in honor of Nettiemac - sorry, sweetheart.

Hey, if South Carolina had beaten the Hogs, she would have had a ham sandwich in my honor - I know she would have!

Anyway, I still can't get over the fact that the Hogs are 8-1 this season. Sure, we got creamed by USC the first game of the season, but the game, at least for three quarters, was closer than I had expected. After that, we beat Utah State, Vandy, and Alabama in games that definitely were not pretty (it took 2 OT to knock off Alabama - and in all fairness, Bama gave us that game - yes, I said it).

But the turning point was beating then #2 Auburn 27-10. I had to work that day, and I freaked when I saw the final score, especially knowing that Auburn had owned us the last three years. We then beat SE Missouri St., Ole Miss, and LA-Monroe easily before the South Carolina game. We have Tennessee, Miss. St., and LSU remaining, and the Hogs are taking none of those opponents lightly. One plus is that Eric Ainge, the starting QB for Tennessee, injured his ankle against LSU and is not expected to play against the Hogs. Miss. St. got their first road SEC victory in 5 years against Bama this past weekend. LSU has always given Arkansas fits, but that game may not matter anyway. How, you may ask? If we beat Tennessee and Miss. St., we will clinch the SEC-West and play Florida in the SEC Championship Game (Florida clinched this past weekend when they beat Vandy and LSU beat Tennessee). Unbelievable!

As for the other big Arkansas team, the ASU Indians? Right now, they are 5-4 this season, but they have a 2-game losing streak going on in which they have been shut out both games. Losing a conference game two weeks ago hurt - to return to the New Orleans Bowl this season, the Indians will need to win their last three games - all conference games, I might add - starting with Troy Not-State University this Saturday. Last year, the Indians beat Froy, 9-3, in a game that definitely was not pretty. If Troy beats the Indians, Troy could put themselves in a position to go to the New Orleans Bowl. I can hear the sound of my buddy Talmadge vomiting at this very moment.

As for the Hogs, two questions were asked of me by some of my co-workers before the season started. One, would the Hogs make it to a bowl game this season? I said yes, they would, but it would not be a major bowl game. Second, would the Hogs be playing in the SEC Championship game? I flat-out said no, they wouldn't - the Hogs don't have what it takes to beat Auburn, Tennessee, or LSU. Well, they've already beaten Auburn - Tennessee and LSU awaits. If the Hogs run the table, and they beat Florida in the SEC Championship game, they will get a BCS bowl bid. What was virtually impossible after getting smoked by USC the first game could become a reality.

But, yet another question was asked of me not too long ago - why are the Hogs 8-1 this season? All the hype surrounding Mitch Mustain and Darren McFadden and Felix Jones being the core of the offense is OK, but make no mistake with this statement: The Hogs are 8-1 because of their defense. The last time I saw a Razorback team unveil a defense this good was in 2001, and the Hogs went to the Cotton Bowl that year. I have been saying for the past two seasons that the defensive secondary needed a lot of work done. I was very impressed with what I saw this past Saturday evening from that secondary. That defense may have given up two touchdowns, but South Carolina had to work for those touchdowns. When SC put Blake Mitchell in the game, the Hogs continued playing man-to-man defense, and Blake burned the Hogs. However, the last defensive play the Hogs had, the Hogs switched to a zone defense - and Blake was picked off and that sealed the deal for the Hogs. It was a good game.

As for my friend Nettiemac, eternal SC fan, the road to a bowl game is full of potholes from here on out. SC has to go to the Swamp this weekend to take on the Gators, and don't think for one second that the Gators have forgotten what SC did to them last year. The Gators will be looking for chicken soup this Saturday. However, this should cheer Nettiemac up: Maryland 13, Clemson 12. I thought that would make you feel better!

Until next time...