I was told in the offseason by someone with a reputable relationship to the Arkansas football program that all it would take is a loss for the Razorbacks to fall apart and start spiraling out of control.
All of us figured that the loss would come in the third week against Alabama, but a respectable game could be enough to keep the team together and moving towards a lofty bowl bid. Three weeks after falling to the Warhawks of Louisiana-Monroe, this statement still plays in my mind every week as I write about the Hogs.
I wrote in the summer that John L. Smith was the best candidate for the job at the timing of Bobby Petrino’s firing. I figured Smith would look more like the guy at Louisville than the guy at Michigan State, but I think most Arkansas fans would take the guy at Michigan State this far into his one-and-done campaign.
Good guy, Smith is. Good leader, he is not.
So now, a two-game road trip to Texas A&M and Auburn awaits UA. Both games are winnable considering the past four years’ showings against both opponents. However, going on the road for a league game at Texas A&M is not going to be easy this weekend, and the Aggies have shown plenty of offensive firepower against weak defenses the past two Saturdays.
Nothing about Paul Haynes’ defensive unit at Arkansas should scare any offensive coordinator – especially not one with a gunslinger mentality like Kliff Kingsbury at A&M.
Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis, Cobi Hamilton and the rest of the offense needs to execute flawlessly to make sure the record improves to 2-3 before the game at Auburn. A 1-4 with four-straight losses will not bode well for the Natural State representatives heading into the Plains.
Can the Hogs get back on the right track and win this weekend? Absolutely. Three weeks ago, I would have told you that this was a no-brainer – like ULM and Rutgers. However, I don’t see a positive light at the end of the tunnel for Smith and Co. the next two weekends.
Kickoff in College Station, Texas, is set for 11:21 a.m. and will be televised regionally on the SEC Network.
Call it now: Texas A&M 38, Arkansas 21
• Missouri at Central Florida (Orlando, Fla., 11 a.m. CT, FSN)
The Tigers have not had good luck in their first two Southeastern Conference outings, falling to the two favorites to win their division in the past three weeks. A big win over Arizona State two weeks ago should be a better gauge of what this team is capable of instead of losses to Georgia and South Carolina as the transition continues throughout the season.
This weekend, Missouri will square off with Central Florida in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Look for a victory for One Mizzou.
Call it now: Missouri 35, Central Florida 13
• Tennessee at No. 5 Georgia (Athens, Ga., 2:30 p.m. CT, CBS)
I found out Sunday afternoon that I’ll actually have the pleasure of attending this game, my first UT-UGA experience. I’m looking forward to taking in the atmosphere in Sanford Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs will be going for three-straight in the series this weekend and has plenty of defense to slow down Tyler Bray and the Vols offense. If the game was in Knoxville, I’d give Derek Dooley’s squad a better chance at knocking off Georgia, but the game being in Athens should be enough to give UGA a winning margin.
I’m not sure if we know exactly how good Georgia is yet, but I wouldn’t expect to answer that question definitively after this game either.
Call it now: Georgia 31, Tennessee 20
• Towson at No. 3 LSU (Baton Rouge, La., 6 p.m. CT, ESPNU)
LSU didn’t look all that spiffy last week in a close 12-10 win over Auburn. Zack Mettenberger got a win in his first road start, but he showed plenty of limitations against the Tigers also. He must get more comfortable in the LSU offense and allow the LSU coaches to show more offensive creativity than has been displayed so far in 2012. If not, Nov. 3 won’t be pretty.
Call it now: LSU 45, Towson 3
• No. 6 South Carolina at Kentucky (Lexington, Ky., 6 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
South Carolina holds a No. 6 national ranking, which is the best under Steve Spurrier since early in the 2007 season. The Gamecocks are also riding an eight-game winning streak – the second-longest in school history to a nine-game mark back in 1984.
Look for USC to match that school record and possibly improve on the ranking this weekend with an easy win over hapless Kentucky.
Call it now: South Carolina 27, Kentucky 10
• Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Ala., 8:15 p.m. CT, ESPN)
Ole Miss did a great job of rebounding from a tough loss to Texas last week by taking care of an opponent that the Rebels were much better than on both paper and on the field. That’s an improvement that wasn’t always guaranteed under the Houston Nutt regime.
Now, the 3-1 Rebels get to visit No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The late kickoff did not bode well for UM against the Longhorns two weeks ago, and I doubt it helps matters much against the Tide.
About the only thing to be upset with Alabama’s performance last week was that the opponent scored for the first time in three weeks. Of course, it was only seven points surrendered by the young UA defense.
It’s going to be a long day for those tailgating in Tuscaloosa and a long night for the visitors from Oxford.
Call it now: Alabama 49, Ole Miss 14
OVERALL RUSHING PICKS
Last week: 9-1