Tusk to Tail: A tailgater’s preview of the first six Hog games

The pre-season is traditionally a time for predictions. How many games will we win? Which players stand out in Coach Bret Bielema’s first season? 

Tusk to Tail chews over all of that, and a whole lot more. We even go so far as try to predict the tailgate conditions. Anyone can make a guess about a game or a season, but who else would try to forecast a party? As P.J. O’Rourke says, “Only one way to cover a story like this, and make that a double, bartender.”

The following six-game predictions get us to the season midpoint with a record of 4-2. But no matter what happens on the field, Tusk to Tail never loses a party. Come back next week to see what we’ve got in store for the rest of the SEC season.

• Razorbacks vs. Louisiana (Aug. 31 – Fayetteville)
The mild summer could seem like a distant memory by Labor Day weekend. It will be hot, leading to more than 100 of our closest friends and family members (and a few people we have never seen) to seek shade under our 600-square-feet of tents and adjacent trees.

The first Tusk to Tailgate features Cajun gumbo and shrimp etouffee in addition to our standard array of snack and desserts. The 3 p.m. kickoff is early for a season opener, but allows us to come back after the game for another round of cocktails before sundown.

Formerly known as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns are apparently bringing the whole damn state for the game. These guys beat Louisiana-Monroe and went to a bowl last year, two feats the Razorbacks couldn’t muster in the Season From L. The Hogs struggle for much of this one, but put it away in the 4th quarter by the strength of running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.

• Razorbacks vs. Samford (Sept. 7 – Little Rock)
Maybe it’s the huge crowds on the golf course, zig zagging from one tent to the next like ants at a picnic. Maybe it’s the fact that we drink all day. Regardless, tailgates at War Memorial Stadium tend to seem like a blur.

Jamey, Jordan, and Jarrod Johnson, along with Jason Parker and Tusk to Tail’s Godfather of Tailgating Craig May have thrown the best party in Little Rock since before the days of reserved spaces, and this day will be no exception. Whether washing down Jamey’s smoked pork with beer or some new concoction that a guest brewed, posting up at the 18th tee box is a tradition unlike any other.

The Razorbacks look like a blur on the field as well, comfortably earning their first Little Rock win in nearly 22 months. Tight end Hunter Henry scores his first touchdown in his home town.

• Razorbacks vs. Southern Mississippi (Sept. 14 – Fayetteville)
Arkansas should return to Fayetteville undefeated, which usually translates to increased fan support. So why is Victory Village and the rest of the tailgating grounds fairly empty? Because we are playing the dreaded early game, kicking off at 11:21 a.m.

Breakfast casseroles, pastries, mimosas, and Bloody Marys fill the morning menu before we amble across the street for the game.

How the Hogs fare in this game could be a good indicator of how some of the key games will go this season. I have little doubt that Arkansas has more talent, and Todd Monken is the third head coach of the Golden Eagles in three years. But our young defense will be tested early and often by Southern Mississippi’s hurry-up no-huddle offense that Monken ran at Oklahoma State. Expect to see the Razorbacks play keep away, led by Center Travis Swanson and the rest of the offensive line chalking up a victory for Bielema’s "normal American football."

• Razorbacks at Rutgers (Sept. 21)
Arkansas’s first road game of the season is the furthest we have traveled for a game since the 2005 trip to Los Angeles. Hopefully this one has better results. The Tusk to Tail Traveling Roadshow Spectacular lands in Philadelphia on Thursday, leaving plenty of time for sightseeing and other excursions, including the Eagles and Phillies games.

May’s brother Chris has been living in the City of Brotherly Love since 2007, and will be instrumental in suggesting places to go and things to see. On Saturday, our gang travels to Piscataway, N.J., for the game. Weather and kickoff time will dictate to what extent we are able to tailgate.

In last year’s Rutgers game, Cobi Hamilton had more than 300 receiving yards, and we still found a way to lose. I suspect Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney has a plan to make quarterback Brandon Allen look like a star as the Hogs cruise to a victory and a 4-0 start.

• Razorbacks vs. Texas A&M (Sept. 28 – Fayetteville)
This gameday atmosphere has a chance to be absolutely electric. The Razorbacks could be undefeated when Texas A&M and Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel come to town.

Of course, Johnny Football has been accused of being Johnny Paycheck, signing autographs in exchange for money, facing the possibility of suspension pending the results of the investigation. But rumors suggest that if he did accept payments, he was Johnny Cash, so I doubt anything gets proven before this game.

Tusk to Tail’s party is massive, with more food and drinks served than any previous tailgate. The crockpot of cheese dip is empty shortly after noon, and the barbecue is all gone hours before the evening kickoff. Despite all of Dale Cullins’s planning there is nary a morsel to be found under our tent when the masses head into the stadium.

The game starts out promising enough, but our defense looks outmanned as the Aggies offense continues to run up the score late. Less than half the sellout crowd sticks around to hear the final whistle.

• Razorbacks at Florida (Oct. 5)
At least our first loss was to a team in the Top 10. The Hogs better lick their wounds quickly, because the next game is on the road against another Top 10 team. It is also the 2nd flight in a span of three weeks for Tusk to Tail.

Only the diehards make it to this one, flying in on Friday and meeting at a hotel in Tampa. The lack of other high profile SEC games keeps the possibility alive for an evening kickoff. If so, we’ll have a scaled down tailgate around our rental cars with a bucket of chicken and a Styrofoam cooler full of beer. The option of going to a sports bar is nixed due to the fact that this is Craig May’s 100th consecutive Razorback game, and 180th out of the last 181.

Arkansas plays well, and keeps it close throughout. Florida’s defense is the difference in preventing an upset at The Swamp, but Arkansas linebacker Martrell Spaight gets his licks in too.