This is the 30th in our series 30 Thoughts on Razorback Football in 30 Days leading up to the 2012 Kickoff.
It was an easy decision, really. Brett and I decided early in Fall camp to eventually wrap up our series of 3o posts on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 30 days leading to the kickoff of the Hogs’ 2012 season with a breakdown of what we thought would constitute a Good or Bad season for the Razorbacks.
I agreed to wear the Black Hat.
It was a no-brainer.
It’s not that I try to be a pessimist. I come by it naturally.
When the topic is potential pain and heartache, I am a soothsayer. Forget the “glass half empty” tag. I’m a “I just ordered a $15 drink and my glass fell off of the table and shattered” guy.
So, consider the above as a fair warning. This isn’t going to be a post for the faint of heart. It is my “worst case scenario”.
While in many ways this post will be the polar opposite of Brett’s fine and arguably as plausible “It Will Be a Good Season If…” post from yesterday, I dug his 4-quarter format so I am co-oping.
Hardcore Hog fans might want to lock away all of the sharp objects within arm’s length.
OK? Here we go…..
It Will Be a Bad Season If…
- v. Jacksonville State
- v. UL – Monroe (Little Rock)
- v. Alabama
As I explained earlier this month, even I can’t talk myself into any hand-wringing over the possibility of former Arkansas Head Coach Jack Crowe coming full circle and Citadeling the Hogs with a FCS team 20 years after notching the worst loss in Razorback history. That was before I was told the mini Gamecocks’ defensive starters will include 3 walkons. Arkansas should win handily.
The following week, Arkansas will head to Little Rock to take on the University of Louisiana Monroe. The War Hawks are no slouch, they have a phenomenal nickname and Arkansas will undoubtedly be looking ahead to its Top Ten showdown (with ESPN’s “Gameday” on hand in the Ozarks) the following week.
But even in a “Bad Season” scenario, these Hogs are too good to lose to a Sun Belt foe. The Hogs will sleep walk through a 30-point win, clearing the path for one of the toughest tickets in Razorback history.
As we know all too well, Arkansas doesn’t just lose The Big One, it builds up the anticipation of a monumental win to a fever pitch and then rips our hearts out with a salad fork. This time, Arkansas will build an early 2-touchdown lead with Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton hooking up for a few big plays exploiting Bama’s talented, but inexperienced defense.
But then, interim Arkansas Head Coach John L. Smith, a renowned special teams guru who has also been known to try anything once, will dial up an ill-fated (and unnecessary) “go for the jugular” onside kick that will fail, turning The Tide. From there, Bama will methodically wear down Arkansas’ defense throughout the 2nd half, ultimately prevailing 28-24.
At the end of the First Quarter of the season, Arkansas should have a 2-1 record and countless questions about the onside kick that will live in infamy.
- v. Rutgers
- at Texas A&M
- at Auburn
If this group of Hogs has proven anything, it is that they are able to shake off tough losses and refocus on the remainder of the season. They did it in 2010–with a 10-win campaign and BCS Bowl bid after giving away their tilt with Bama and having their game with Auburn taken from them.
Last year, the Razorbacks again looked to be in a world of hurt after being humbled in Tuscaloosa and “whoop”ed for 2 quarters by the Texas A&M Aggies the following week in Jerry World. They responded with a comeback for the ages that was the catalyst for a 7-game winning streak.
Similarly, the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the 2012 season should be Mother’s Milk for the Hogs. Sure, Rutgers could be a trap game. But, Greg Schiano isn’t walking through that door. The Scarlet Knights are a solid Big East Team (yes, that’s an oxymoron) but the Razorbacks have worked too hard and suffered through a much too tumultuous offseason to Piscataway a shot at a dream season in Week 4.
The Hogs will beat the Scarlet Knights, but it will be too close for comfort. From there, a 2-game road trip awaits the Razorbacks. BK has already detailed TAMU’s surprisingly tepid recent homefield advantage. What he didn’t mention is that the Aggies are transitioning to a 4-3 defense and they don’t have the tackles to match their new SEC brethren.
By Week 5, A&M should be riding high with a favorable early schedule and the ear-to-ear smile of the blissfully ignorant. And then, Arkansas’ Knile Davis will channel E.D “Extremely Dangerous” Jackson and have a record-setting outing at Kyle Field leading the Hogs’ to an easier-than-expected, double-digit win in College Station.
Arkansas will than head to the Plains knowing that if they can take down the War Damn Eagle Tigers they will still have all of their preseason goals intact. It won’t be easy. With a tough early schedule that could easily have Auburn sitting at 1-3 with Arkansas coming to town, Auburn will have 180,000 reasons to want to take down the Hogs.
But Kiehl Frazier will continue his virtuoso performance as a Kodi Burns imposter, leading to an Arkansas win. ESPN cameras will catch Frazier’s father mumbling profanities in the stands while wearing his “Malibu’s Most Wanted” Starter Kit– A white AU track/warm up suit (ie parachute pants) and matching backward lid.
Heading into the 3rd Quarter of the season, Arkansas should be 5-1 and with a manageable slate of games on the horizon, eyeing another sprint to the finish.
- v. Kentucky
- v. Ole Miss (Little Rock)
- v. Tulsa (Homecoming)
At this point in the schedule, Arkansas won’t have to worry too much about Big Blue. Even the UK football players will be looking ahead to basketball season.
Mississippi is so bad that its new coach, Hugh Freeze, when asked at SEC Media Days to compare his roster to the one he just left at Sun Belt Conference member Arkansas State, essentially said the Red Wolves were deeper and more talented than the Rebel Black Bears. (FILL IN STRAINED FREEZE/ICY OXFORD RECEPTION FOR THOSE COMMENTS JOKE HERE)
Tulsa will put points on the board in Reynolds Razorback Stadium–they always do. But TU”s defense wouldn’t run afoul of the rules in a standard flag football game. Arkansas should score at will and roll on to its 6th straight win and an 8-1 record at the end of the 3rd Quarter of the season.
- at South Carolina
- at Mississippi State
- v. LSU
By the 10th week of the season, the chances of USCE QB Conner Shaw being healthy (either physically or mentally) after taken a ton of hits to his body from opponents and even more to his psyche from the Ole Ball Coach are slim. If healthy, Gamecocks runningback Marcus Lattimore will be a major threat to an Arkansas defense that has struggled in the past with downhill runners.
But if Arkansas has had one team’s number in recent years it has been USCE. Arkansas is 7-3 in its last 10 versus South Carolina. In the last 3 contests with the Gamecocks, Arkansas, in going 3-0, has averaged 39 points a game and has boasted an 18-point margin of victory over Steve Spurrier and company.
Ellis Johnson, (a top-notch defensive coordinator against almost everyone not named Petrino) has moved on, but his protegé’ and former Arkansas assistant Lorenzo Ward has been on hand for the previous beat downs and there’s little reason to think he has more of any answer for the Hogs’ offensive assault than he has had in the past. The trend should continue and if so the Hogs will beat the ‘Cocks to notch their 2nd 7-game winning streak in as many seasons.
You must be asking…..”This is a bad season?” I get that.
At 9-1 with 2 of the leading Heisman candidates and a quirky quote machine of an interim coach, Arkansas will be one of the big stories of the college football season. All that will stand in the way of a date with destiny–a Top 5 matchup with LSU to end the season and crown a SEC Western Division (and a potential 2nd 2012 Fayetteville visit from ESPN’s Gameday) will be a scrappy bunch of Mississippi State Bulldogs and their cow bell-ringing fans.
THIS is when the Starkville will hit the fan in Arkansas’ 2012 season.
With 7 or 8 wins and a walk-over Egg Bowl against Mississippi remaining on his schedule, MSU head coach Dan Mullen will be extra amped to finish strong and pave the way for an exit stage left in advance of NCAA investigators and their wacky
new old “heads or tails” infractions investigative approach.
Arkansas will struggle from start to finish and will be left with a myriad of “What Ifs”–chief among them a 38-yard missed field goal from sure-footed placekicker Zack Hocker that would have sent the game to overtime.
In the wake of the disastrous loss, Arkansas, Smith and all of the Razorbacks will say the right things about sending the seniors out on the right note and still having a lot–namely The Golden Boot–to play for against LSU.
But talk is cheap, and a group of guys can only bounce back from so many gut-punch losses on the big stage. A raucous Razorback Stadium will fall silent early when LSU’s Les Miles goes for a 4th-and-long conversion from near midfield and Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. takes a slant to the house after eluding Arkansas cornerback Darius Winston. LSU will never look back, vanquishing the Hogs 48-16 and sending them to the most disappointing 9-3 season in school history.
After playing in the Cotton Bowl last year, and re-upping to make the annual trek to Jerry World to play TAMU every year (again) beginning in 2014, the Razorbacks will be sent to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech and its throwback offense in the Chick Fil A Bowl.
With a homefield advantage and a half-hearted opponent, Ga Tech will put an end to the John L. Smith era at Arkansas with a blowout win that will have national pundits wondering if Arkansas really was the plum job it seemed to be just a few weeks earlier when the Hogs were 2 wins away from playing for the 2nd National Championship in school history.
And that, BlogHawgs Nation, is how a 9-win season could be a “bad” season.
With no marquee win (ie neither Bama or LSU) this would be a a bad season considering where Arkansas has been, the opportunity it has (in terms of personnel, staff and schedule) and the potential step back with the national perception of program
If Arkansas’ gridiron journey of hope and would-be redemption turns south in such a gut-wrenching manner that only a tortured Hog fans can understand, in some ways, 2012 will be a season of misery.
But remember, this was a “worst case scenario”.
Let’s just hope the Football Gods don’t hate us that much.