Tusk to Tail: Over the hump

We are halfway there.  Living on a prayer?  Not exactly.

Winning at Auburn was the midpoint of the season. When a team hits its stride, it is frequently called mid-season form. For old dogs like us, there is no form. We are just glad to have made it over the hump.

The average Tusk to Tailgater is not that old, compared to many Razorback fans. But these are tailgating years. Time travels differently during football season, especially when spending every weekend away from home.

When juice is a cocktail mixer and the only vegetable available is a French fry, one tends to age a little faster. The first healthy meal after returning home from a game is likely to be rejected by our bodies like a bad organ transplant. At this rate, we will look like Merle Haggard’s road crew by the time our children graduate high school.

Nonetheless, here we are, at the midway point.  Remember when the Razorbacks’s chance for a national championship seemed legitimate enough that some were already booking rooms in South Beach? Long cancelled.

How about that hurricane that was coming through Fayetteville to soak the first game this year? That may have been the only 100% sunny weekend Fayetteville has seen all season.

And surely we couldn’t lose to a Sunbelt team. Not in Little Rock.

Mercy! I am having a hard time reflecting on the season before getting to the third game. Did I mention the time we were narrowly edged by a combined score of 110-10 in consecutive SEC games, or when Rutgers 103rd ranked passing attack threw for about half a mile on us?

Or how about the game at Texas A & M? We got our asses handed to us in the pouring rain, and still left feeling nostalgic that it would be 2025 at the earliest before we could return to their bat guano-infested upper decks. This may not be in the official conference handbook, but there is no denying it:  Slap an SEC logo on that field, and we are all a bunch of brainwashed morons.

The Auburn trip was yet another time warp. The last time Arkansas played there, the winner won the BCS Championship, and the loser settled for a trip to the BCS Sugar Bowl. I have searched for some hidden meaning in how both teams have fallen, but have come up empty.

Seeing that more than 80,000 fans showed up for the game, I think it goes back to what I learned in College Station: Slap an SEC logo on that field, and we are all a bunch of brainwashed morons. On with the predictions.

• Predict the final score, Kentucky @ Arkansas:
Sean Casey: KY 24, Hogs 31. This is Arkansas's first football victory over KY in Fayetteville.
Jack Clark: Hogs 28, KY 20
Dale Cullins: Hogs 31, Cats 10. QB troubles for the Cats too much to overcome on the road
Greg Houser: I feel like David last week. I am too confused and not confident enough to pick the Hogs. Considering I did not pick the Hogs last week, let me continue the horrendously stupid act of not picking the Hogs and hope they win. Kentucky 24, Hogs 21.
Craig May: Arkansas 28, Kentucky 14
David Rice Basketball 20, Track & Field 27
Mark Wagner: Arkansas 24, Kentucky 10
Father Mulcahey:  Arkansas by 10

• Who is the Razorbacks impact player, and why:
SC: Austin Tate catches 2 TDs.
JC: We get a pick 6 from our defense.
DC:  I wish someone new would step up, but have to stick with Cobi Hamilton.
GH: I picked Flynn to be a beast last week. I was wrong, but not wrong to pick the defense. I'll pick the defense (excuse me, defensive line) to continue to be hungry. Four sacks.
CM: Dylan Breeding.
DR:  Otha Peters is a man-child and will get plenty of playing time.
MW:  Dennis Johnson picks up where he left off at Auburn.
FM:  Trey Flowers again. We need that pass rush.

• The Hogs got a road win, and are in a winnable stretch of games.  Do we earn a bowl bid?
SC: Not bowling this year.
JC: We will not make a bowl game.
DC:  I will say we get to 6-6 with a win over O-less LSU to make it happen.
GH: I will not even dare to dream such a dream that was something we should have tripped on this year.
CM: Hogs are in a stretch of winnable games but I don’t see them winning @ MSU @ USC or LSU at home.  So no bowl game and a final season record of 5-7.
DR:  The ULM loss proves costly as the Razorbacks finish 5-7, making LSU our bowl game.
MW:  We will not earn a bowl bid.
FM:  I’m not optimistic about bowl bid, but proud of the guys for getting a road win under the circumstances.

• Care to revise your pick for the next head coach of the Razorbacks?
SC: Holgorsen. The Hogs finally find a Dana that sticks around long enough to actually coach.
JC: No idea who the next coach will be. I suspect that neither does Jeff Long.
DC:  I would still say Gary Patterson but I am coming around to Charlie Strong or the Cinci Coach.
GH: Still want me some Charlie Strong. Picking a great O.C. coupled with Charlie's defense, tenacity, strong work ethic, home state guy, and the fact he could probably out bench press half of our team … I kinda like the guy!
CM: Sticking with Mark Dantonio as the next coach.
DR:  Charlie Strong’s name didn’t excite me much at first, but he would be a solid hire.  Holgorson would help us forget about Petrino’s offense in a hurry, but he would not be a cheap date. Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads is not a flashy pick, but could be the best fit of all.
MW:  I really want Patterson from TCU, but think we'll probably get someone like Strong (which will be OK as well).
FM:  Can't be Butch Davis. Can it?

• Pick the winners: South Carolina @ LSU and Tennessee @ Mississippi State
SC: LSU. USCe peaked against UGA and LSU is due a good game. USCe wilts at a night game in Death Valley. Spurrier goes through a dozen headsets. Tenner at Miss St.?  (yawn) Gimme some cowbell.
JC: USC wins 17-12. Corndogs are cheap in Baton Rouge.  Tennessee beats MSU 15-9
DC:  Spurrier doesn't win too many big road games in this league and it doesn't get tougher than Death Valley, LSU 12, USC 10.  Miss State has a good schedule this year,
MSU 27, Tenn 17
GH: Pains me to say, but I think the Tigers get the Gamecocks this year. I'll take Tenner over the Bulldogs. They are a good team, but do they know how to handle undefeated?
CM: LSU 24, USC 17.  MSU 35, TENN 27
DR:  Death Valley at Night beats Morning Tee Time in Augusta, 12-9.  Moving Dooley to the booth this week gets four quarters from the Vols.  They win 31 – 27.
MW:  SC 28, LSU 10 South Carolina, does the same thing to LSU as they did to Georgia.  Miss State 21, Tenn 7.
FM:  SC and State

• Bonus predictions and commentary:
SC: Jack invites his friend Kaquisha to the tailgate. Mark leaves as soon as I arrive at the tailgate. Craig spills beer on Kaquisha and Dale immediately offers to make her a drink. David dares Greg to streak during the game and we all discover Greg's appreciation for neon thongs and an apparent fear of razors.

JC: John L. Smith talks about his Ray-Bans during halftime interview.

GH: I was looking forward to the old guys stepping up to get us some great catfish, but the possibility of rain is pushing us toward the Latino side of our culinary tastes. I predict everyone except the team will be looking for a week off. If they win, I figure the boys will be hungry to win again!

DR: This is the first time in two weeks that Tusk to Tail’s core seven members are back together. Awkward bro hugs and “I love you, man” moments abound.

MW:  Now that we lost Hightower for the season and Tyler Wilson was in a car accident on Tuesday, I predict that the Mayans were correct in their predictions. But instead of the world, it’s only happening to the Arkansas Razorbacks.

FM: Tusk to Tail’s Editor in Chief threatens to quit blogging due to late entries. Jack frets while thinking that without his strong editor, his budding writing career (and possible plush retirement) might end.