Fayetteville, Ark. – Not every college football program wins their bye week, fortunately for the Arkansas Razorbacks they won their much needed break from the tumultuous early part of their 2012 college football season.
How can any team lose their bye week you may ask? Easy, injuries, arrests, or anything that can cause a setback for said team’s ability to positively move forward with their season can cause a team to lose their bye week.
At the time of this writing, the Razorbacks avoided any known further injuries and any known arrest. For a team that was plagued with off-season arrests and devastating injuries since the start of fall camp the Hogs have come out winners off their bye week.
The Hogs also steered clear of any further embarrassing coaching gaffes, sound bites, or headlines in the national news; also a troubling trend since April of this year.
Where do the Hogs go from here?
The Razorbacks rebounded from a 1-4 start to win decidedly in back-to-back games against Auburn, 24-7 on the road, and Kentucky, 49-7 in a weather shortened game. True Auburn and Kentucky are 1-6 and 1-7 respectively but momentum can be built in a number of ways and that is the focal point the Razorbacks took into their bye week, a winning streak and momentum gained against conference teams.
Good teams take care of “winnable” games and that is what Arkansas did, easily. The swagger is back leading into the second part of the Hogs’ season with five games remaining on the schedule. The Razorbacks have an opportunity to produce one of the greatest turn-a-rounds in college football history. This team is dangerous enough on offense to win out.
Must win game ahead…
Ole Miss is 4-3 overall and 1-2 in conference with no signature wins. Yes Mississippi is much improved over the Houston Nutt teams paraded out on the field over the past two seasons but honestly that program had no where to go but up.
Mississippi lost 66-31 to a bad Texas team at home, played Alabama tougher than most expected (33-14), and could not upend a tough Texas A&M team at home losing 30-27; all arguably quality losses but still all losses. Playing Alabama closer than others expected might be a moral victory but counts for little outside of noticeable improvement on the field of play.
The Hogs lost to two of the same teams, Alabama and A&M, but by decidedly worst scores. Fortunately style points count for little on the field and an exception can be made for the injuries Arkansas was dealing with at the times of both games.
Both Arkansas and Ole Miss have a conference win over Auburn, Arkansas winning 24-7 at Auburn and the Rebels winning at home 41-20.
Saturday’s matchup against the SEC West rivals has more at steak than just another win for both teams… a bowl berth can be claimed or lost come Saturday.
Arkansas is 3-4 with upcoming games against Tulsa, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and LSU. Of the four only LSU seems to be a game Arkansas will have extreme difficulty winning; my opinion.
South Carolina does not have the play makers on offense to be an elite SEC team, Arkansas does. South Carolina has a tough defensive front. Arkansas does not have as tough of a defensive front with underclassmen and inexperienced players filling in at linebacker.
If the Razorbacks can limit Connor Shaw’s play making ability, mainly keeping him from moving the chains with his legs, the Hogs have shown they can beat South Carolina teams coached by Steve Spurrier; and Lou Holtz.
Nobody really knows how good Mississippi State is at this point in the season. This may be tough to read about a team that is 7-0 in the SEC but the Bulldogs have no signature wins. If Tennessee, 3-4, is the feather in MSU’s cap, that cap does not look so attractive.
MSU will get their chance to show if they are pretenders or contenders this weekend when they travel to Alabama. Same holds true for MSU as Ole Miss’ 19 point loss to Bama, a moral victory may show improvement but the Bulldogs lost by 17 to the Tide last year when Alabama was arguably better than this year’s team.
Also working in the Hogs favor is MSU’s schedule. They have a murder’s row of games leading up to their showdown with Arkansas; at Bama, vs. Texas A&M, at LSU, then vs. Arkansas.
Will MSU be punch drunk and wobbly at the knees by the time Arkansas rolls into Starkville or will the Bulldogs finally take the next step towards being an elite SEC team? I’m guessing 7-3 riding a three-game losing streak.
LSU’s defense is so solid year after year they cannot be taken for granted. Their pass offense is so bad that the Razorbacks’ pass defense displayed early in the year would still win that matchup.
The separation between LSU and Arkansas is LSU’s running attack vs. the Arkansas run defense and LSU’s front seven vs. the Arkansas offensive line.
If Wilson gets his passes off the Hogs have a chance to win, especially at home. If the Razorback offensive line gives up big plays early then wears out in the fourth quarter, game goes to the Tigers.
The Rebels’ schedule does not prove to be any easier than the Razorbacks’. After playing the Hogs they travel to Georgia, host a Vanderbilt team that has owned them over the last few years, travel to Death Valley, then finish up at home against a MSU team that could be fighting for a share of the SEC West title or a team fighting to end the season on a winning note.
If Arkansas improves to 4-4 after playing Ole Miss this weekend a bowl game no longer becomes a distant reality. Instead of playing in a forgotten bowl three weeks before New Year’s Eve the Hogs could find themselves moving up in quality.
Ole Miss is in the same situation. After back-to-back Cotton Bowl berths, thank you Houston Nutt, then back-to-back 4-8 and 2-10 seasons, thank you again Houston Nutt, the Rebels need a winning season for a down trotted program and a fan base wanting more. If Ole Miss loses to Arkansas a bowl berth seems unlikely.
Should Arkansas lose to Ole Miss the same opportunity for the Hogs has just gone out the window.
Winning the bye week, having injured players return to the field, and a renewed sense of motivation along with a new direction for a once lost team should make Arkansas a tough team to beat for the remainder of the 2012 college football season.