Tusk to Tail: 20 years

As Jason Parker pointed out in his column this week, Ole Miss is coming to Little Rock for the first time since 1992. How dramatically have things changed over the past 20 years?

In 1992, two new teams entered the SEC. It took three years before Arkansas was competitive, and even longer for South Carolina, who was stuck in the Eastern division, home of at least two of the best teams in college football.

In 2012, two new teams entered the SEC. It looks like Missouri could take years to competitive, but Texas A & M has held their own in the Western division, home of at least two of the best teams in college football. I suspect the Aggies will be in a much better position than the previous SEC pioneers within a season or two.

In 1992, the Razorbacks suffered the worst loss in modern history to the Citadel. Joe Kines took over as interim coach for the season, but lacked the leadership necessary to hold the job. In 2012, the Razorbacks suffered the second-worst loss in modern history to Louisiana-Monroe. There’s not a lot to say about interim coach John L. Smith’s leadership, but at least it appears that the administration is aiming higher than Danny Ford for the next head coach.

During this weekend in 1992, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton was about a week away from being elected president in a rare three-candidate race. Has a Democrat presidential nominee carried the state since Clinton? Regardless, there seems to be a growing desire for a viable third-party candidate.

In 1992, college football existed inside a radio and a newspaper for most people. There was an 11:30 game broadcasted by Raycom, but they used worse camera angles than the one that captured Felix Baumgartner hurtling through space from 28 miles away.  If the Hogs were in the top 25 (which surely didn’t happen in 1992), they were on TV a couple of times a year at most. Otherwise, the likes of Orville Henry and Paul Eels were your eyes and ears unless you had tickets.

In 2012, every game is televised. Every. Single. Game.

Fans may have to buy a pay-per-view once or twice a year, but all 12 games should be available, generally in oh-my-god-what-is-that-on-his-chin levels of high definition clarity.

Not going to be home? Set the DVR. Watch it on a mobile device. Watch multiple games on multiple devices. Just make sure you watch the ads. ESPN needs to clear that billion-dollar check.

Yet something is still vitally wrong.

Even though more than half of the conference plays in the Central time zone, as many as six SEC teams will begin their game before noon. The 11 a.m. kickoffs might make sense if you live in a region where the temperatures are too extreme to play at night.  They could even be justified when the teams are in the East, meaning it was at least noon for the fans who attended. But for the Western division teams, it just cuts our party short, which leads to my final point.

In 1992, I was a senior in college. As my fraternity’s social chairman, I was wrapping up plans for our annual Bacchanalian ritual, Octogafest. I remember being a senior, and realizing that it was time to straighten up and face the real world, just as soon as this toga party was over.

In 2012, I am in my 40s. As Tusk to Tail’s ad hoc editor-in-chief, I am wrapping up the description of our weekly Bacchanalian ritual known as a tailgate. I should probably straighten up and face the real world. Just as soon as the party’s over. On to the predictions.

Predict the final score, Ole Miss @ Arkansas.
Sean Casey:  Arkansas 30, Ole Miss 28 (Homer pick)
Jack Clark: Hogs 31, Black Bears 21
Dale Cullins: I feel good about the Hogs chances, but not confident. Hogs 31, Ole Miss 21
Greg Houser: Arkansas 28, Ole Miss 21
Craig May:  Hogs 35, Black Bears 24
David Rice: Arkansas 41, Ole Miss 38 (OT)
Mark Wagner: Ole Miss 31, Arkansas 38
Father Mulcahey: Arkansas pulls out a close one 31-24
Jamey Johnson : Must go with the Hogs. They haven't lost 2 games in the Rock in the same season in years. Hogs 24, Ole Miss 21.
Jordan Johnson: AR wins 35 to 21
Jason Parker: Thanks for taking HDN off our hands — 35, We can't do better than Arkansas's sloppy seconds 21

Who is the Razorbacks impact player, and why?
SC: Dennis Johnson runs for 128 yds and 2 TDs.
JC: Rasner recovers a fumble.
DC: Have to go with Gragg. He sounds hungry on the news.
GH: Tyler Wilson sustains drives and makes 3 TD passes. 300 + yards passing.
CM: The Arkansas running game.  To win this game the Hogs will need to control the clock and keep the Ole Miss offense off the field.
DR: Cobi Hamilton never lets Little Rock down.
MW: Tyler Wilson has to have a game like he did against Kentucky if we are going to win.
FM: Cobi-Tyler combo platter.
JJ#1: Wilson, by far, is the nucleus of the team.  Should he have a great day, we should win hands down, provided the defensive team gets off the bus.
JJ#2: Cobi Hamilton is impact player. Why? Because I saw him practice today.
JP: Knile Davis had his coming out party in 2010 against OM and we are going to need him to pick it up if we want to finish strong in 2012.

Predict who plays for the BCS championship, and who wins.
SC: Alabama loses to Notre Dame.
JC: Alabama and Florida play in the NC game, a repeat of the SEC championship game. Bama wins both games. Oddly, the SEC loses in the championship game 2 years in a row.
DC: Bama and Oregon. Bama 37 – Oregon 24
GH: Bama vs Oregon. Bama by 14. Defense stifles the Ducks and Bama kills ‘em in the 4th quarter.
CM: Alabama 31, Oregon 28
DR: Alabama destroys Oklahoma.
MW: Alabama vs Oregon. Oregon will win it because Alabama's offense won't be able to score enough points to match what Oregon puts on the board.
FM: Tide and K-State.
JJ#1:  Hate to say, but Bama wins hands down. Opponent is yet to be determined. Doesn't matter. Bama still wins.
JP: Bama/Oregon. Not original but I don't see any other BCS conference teams getting there. Bama wins in a route

What did you do during the Razorbacks' bye week?
SC: Kids had 3 soccer games on Saturday.
JC: I ate lots of salad during the bye week.
DC: Finished off the yard work for the season, some family time, and watched some football.
GH: Movie date night with the wife. Long overdue. (The date, not the wife.)
CM: Spent time with the kids so my wife could have a free weekend.
DR: Actually a pretty nice little Saturday. We went to Home Depot. Bought some wallpaper, some flooring, stuff like that. We wanted to go to Bed, Bath, & Beyond, but didn’t have enough time.
MW: During the bye week, I worked around the house (glad we only have one bye week this year), spent a small fortune at the State Fair eating fried things that aren't good for me, and went to Church to pray for the souls of my fellow Tusk To Tail members (some need it more than others).
FM: Made up for lost time with the family.
JJ#1: Watched baseball (Cardinals), ran 6 miles, and a buddy and I brewed up a batch of microbrew ale.
JJ#2: I went to a pumpkin patch with the kids, attended a wedding, worked on a speech for Clinton, cheered on the Cardinals, and polished some shoes.
JP:  Went to PA football game with John L Smith & Tim Horton. Well not with them, but we were all there to see Hunter Henry. Attended two of my 7-year-old son Drew's Life Champ Football Games (lost both) and coached Drew's Junior Deputy baseball game (we won).

Pick the winners of these two game: Florida-Georgia and Mississippi State @ Alabama
SC: UGA wins much to Greg's chagrin. Bama grinds State into the ground.
JC: Florida beats Georgia.  Bama crushes MSU.
DC:  Florida 27, UGA 21.  Bama 42 , Miss St. 17
GH: Fla over Uga (go gators). Bama over MSU (close for almost 3 full quarters).
CM: Florida 28,  Georgia 24.  Alabama 35,  MSU 10
DR: Georgia could win, only because it seems like most of the SEC will beat each other up this season. I think Miss Stake hangs around with Bama long enough to scare them before Bama turns it on to win 34-14.
MW: Florida stomps Georgia, and Bama gives MSU their first loss of the season.
FM: Florida and Bama.
JJ#1: Gators, for sure. A former Bryant Hornet, U of A football player, transferred to Ole Miss and is now the strength & conditioning coach for the Gators.  He has the Gators prepared!  In the other game, as much as I hate to say it again … Alabama.
JP:  Gators. And Bama, big. Reality starts to set in for Bulldogs from here. Next four games are @Bama, aTm, @LSU, Hogs and OM. They could lose all of those.

Bonus predictions and commentary
SC: Jack almost misses the game after spending Friday night working into the morning volunteering for the Romney/Ryan campaign. I have to record the Ole Miss game because I'll be at a softball tournament for my oldest Friday and Saturday.  Despite my best efforts to avoid radio, TV, internet, etc. so I can watch the game at home, I suspect someone from Tusk to Tail will figure out a way to ruin the surprise for me.  Odds on favorite is Mark.
JC: There will be some jackass in an LSU hoodie sitting in my section. There always is.
GH: This will be my first game missed this season. My girls' first gymnastics meet of the season is muy importante! Sorry guys! I'll have to buy lunch next time.
CM: Let’s hope Houser finds a way to make it to Little Rock for the ball game this weekend.   It just wouldn’t be the same without him.
DR: The air conditioner can finally be turned off for the remainder of the year.
MW: Certain Tusk To Tail members and friends from NWA will be chastised for not being at the game this Saturday. They know who they are, and odds are they already know what will be said about them. I also predict that the Hogs will go to a Bowl game this year.
FM: Jack's family rejoices now that he is out of the house following the Hogs again.
JJ#1: We will be diverging away from the delicious, outstanding BBQ that takes days to smoke or at least a 12 pack to prepare for each tailgate function. Instead we should have an outstanding brunch prepared by none other than Jason, with much assistance by his better half, Ashley. See you on the 18th Tee box at  6 a.m.!
JP:  Jarrod Johnson's tent pole stands alone, again, for the setup. We also will take the opportunity to recognize how far technology has come since we began tailgating, and pour a little of our morning beverages out in memory of statements like, "Well you know, 2 inches down here is like 200 miles in space."