SEC Football Week 4: A turning point for Arkansas?
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Whenever your school gives up 52 points, it’s never a good feeling.
Doubts run through your mind about a team’s defensive coordinator, a team’s head coach and a team’s ability to slow down an opposing offense filled with junior high players. It’s even worse when it happens against one of the best teams in your league, much less the country.
Where the University of Alabama football program is perched in the college football hierarchy is where many University of Arkansas football fans had hoped the Razorbacks were destined to be this fall. The schedule set up perfectly with both LSU and Bama coming to Fayetteville to take on the best 1-2 punch in college football in Knile Davis and Tyler Wilson.
Last year’s 11 wins was supposed to be the springboard for bigger things and championship rings this fall.
Then, Bobby Petrino went off and had his afternoon bike ride in April and the entire season suddenly spiraled out of control. I knew it wouldn’t take much to rattle Arkansas’ confidence this season, but I didn’t expect a loss to Louisiana-Monroe and a lack of any kind of showing up a week later against the Crimson Tide in a highly-anticipated home game against the defending national champions and the current top-ranked team in the land.
Alabama is really, really good and has established itself as September’s class of the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas won’t be the last SEC opponent the Tide beats 52-0 this season. However, back-to-back losses have everyone wondering just what is around the corner for John L. Smith’s interim season at the helm of the Natural State’s pride and joy.
This weekend presents a winnable game for the Razorbacks against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are 3-0 but have not faced anyone near the same caliber as the Hogs yet in 2012. A team from the Big East should not be able to come in and take care of business on the road against an upper-tiered SEC school, no matter the circumstances.
This is a turning point for Smith’s squad. Winnable games are littering the schedule throughout the next two weeks and October. However, three-straight losses heading into a pivotal two-game road trip to Texas A&M and Auburn could see a bowl bid escape UA’s grasp. This team needs something good to happen to it this weekend, and I’m thinking now is as good of a time as ever to have that occur.
ESPNU will televise the 6 p.m. kickoff to a national audience from Razorback Stadium.
Call it now: Arkansas 31, Rutgers 27
• Ole Miss at Tulane (New Orleans, La., 11 a.m. CT, FSN)
If you doubted whether Texas was back and for real, it’s hard to argue those points after watching how easily the Longhorns handled Ole Miss last Saturday night in Oxford. It was clear which squad was more talented and more experienced from the first quarter throughout the humid evening at the Vaught.
However, if you paid attention to Ole Miss, you saw that the Rebels lacked a desire to give up and fold as the scoreboard read a huge point discrepancy. That attitude will win Ole Miss at least one game the experts weren’t figuring in the offseason. Hugh Freeze has these kids believing in themselves, and postseason play may not be too far off in UM’s future under his tutelage.
This is a big game, though, for a young team that needs to forget the week prior – in both good and bad circumstances.
Call it now: Ole Miss 27, Tulane 13
• Kentucky at No. 14 Florida (Gainesville, Fla., 11:21 a.m. CT, SEC Network)
I don’t know if there is anyone in the country that possesses a better collection of road victories than Florida. The Gators used suffocating second halves in each of the past two weeks to put away Texas A&M and Tennessee. Last weekend, UF looked the best it has since Tim Tebow was last calling the shots on the field in 2009.
Florida fans can breathe a huge sigh of relief and have a great afternoon in the Swamp congratulating this team against hapless Kentucky.
How much longer will Joker Phillips hold onto his job? This weekend will just add a little more fuel to his doubters’ fire – not that they need much more after losing to Western Kentucky last weekend.
Call it now: Florida 31, Kentucky 13
• Missouri at No. 8 South Carolina (Columbia, S.C., 2:30 p.m. CT, CBS)
This could be the most entertaining game of the weekend, and it should give CBS’s viewers a much more enjoyable contest to watch than last week’s Arkansas-Alabama tilt.
South Carolina continues to just keep winning, a trend that has been set and perfected under Steve Spurrier’s guidance the past seven-plus years. This will be the biggest test to the Gamecocks’ merit since the opener at Vanderbilt, but Missouri isn’t ready to win SEC games at home – much less on the road in one of the league’s most hostile environments.
James Franklin will give the USC defense fits for a little bit, but I’m interested to see if Jadaveon Clowney and the rest of the stellar South Carolina defensive line can cause as much havoc as Jarvis Jones did against the athletic Franklin two weeks ago in MU’s league opener.
Call it now: South Carolina 27, Missouri 17
• Florida Atlantic at No. 1 Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Ala., 4 p.m. CT, PPV)
If I were a Bama fan, I’d complain to whoever would listen about the lack of quality opponents on this year’s home schedule. I mean, really, you have the defending national champions and the best you can put up as far as opposition is concerned (so far) is Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky?
That’s about all Alabama fans have to complain about these days. This is another one of those name-your-score type of evenings, and I meant what I said when I stated that Alabama would beat another SEC opponent 52-0 at some point this year.
Call it now: Alabama 45, Florida Atlantic 3
• No. 2 LSU at Auburn (Auburn, Ala., 6 p.m. CT, ESPN)
If you have watched Auburn any this year, you know that the Tigers are struggling on both sides of the ball with new schemes being implemented this fall. Gene Chizik and Co. are still looking for a complete game. This isn’t a good place to find it with LSU coming to town.
The Bayou Bengals will be without starting tailback Alfred Blue, but Spencer Ware will take over the starting role and is more than capable of racking up a ton of yards against an AU defense that’s had a hard time slowing down everyone the past two seasons.
A night game crowd in Jordan-Hare Stadium may be enough to charge the home Tigers to keep this from getting too far out of hand too early.
Call it now: LSU 31, Auburn 14
• South Alabama at Mississippi State (Starkville, Miss., 6 p.m. CT, PPV)
Don’t look now but Dan Mullen is 60 minutes away from leading Mississippi State to a 4-0 start.
I’ll leave it at that and let you ponder that one for awhile.
Call it now: Mississippi State 41, South Alabama 17
• South Carolina State at Texas A&M (College Station, S.C., 6 p.m. CT, FSN)
Exactly what did FSN see in this game that it decided to pass on televising FAU-Bama or South Alabama-MSU?
The Aggies did a great job of shaking off the loss to Florida with a shellacking of SMU last weekend. Johnny Manziel earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors with 294 yards passing against the Mustangs. His numbers could surpass this weekend at home against S.C. State.
Call it now: Texas A&M 48, South Carolina State 10
• Akron at Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn., 6:30 p.m. CT, PPV)
Terry Bowden spent six years coaching at Auburn in the 1990s and will be making his first ever coaching appearance in Knoxville, Tenn., this weekend as the head coach of the Akron Zips.
The Vols played really well and really inspired against Florida last year for the first three quarters, but UT must develop a better game plan in the fourth quarter if the Big Orange is ready to rejoin the SEC’s elite. This ascent will be aided if the ground game can become more consistent after halftime.
Saturday’s as good of a day as any to work on that.
Call it now: Tennessee 38, Akron 17
• Vanderbilt at Georgia (Athens, Ga., 6:45 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
The Vanderbilt Commodores finally got on the winning side for 2012 with a thrashing of Presbyterian last weekend. A 58-0 win can instill confidence into anyone, and this boost of self-worth comes at just the right time for VU as the ‘Dores cruise into Samford Stadium this weekend.
Georgia hasn’t done much spectacular through three games, but all three victories have been convincing in the end. Is Vanderbilt the toughest opponent for UGA yet? It’s hard to argue against it, but there’s still a big enough talent discrepancy between the two that I foresee nothing preventing this margin of victory to be anything but comfortable for the Bulldogs in the end.
Call it now: Georgia 28, Vanderbilt 17
OVERALL RUSHING PICKS
Last week: 10-2