Remember how fun this is?
Op·ti·mism (op-tuh-miz-uhm) Noun
1. a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
Remember that feeling? It wasn’t long ago it permeated the Arkansas fanbase. Personally, I think it’s time to get re-acquainted.
I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, but even my ability to "expect the most favorable outcome" from this year’s Razorbacks deserted me sometime before overtime began in The Game Which Shall Not Be Named a couple weeks ago.
It was plain then that the team was rudderless without Tyler Wilson and seemed therefore bound to explore new and inventive methods of self-destruction.
What followed against Alabama, then, was not surprising. That’s not to say it wasn’t frustrating, but watching a Sun Belt team slowly dismantle months of building hope in a matter of hours has a way of leaving a guy feeling hollow in that football-shaped part of his soul.
But that’s enough about The Troubles. We’ve wallowed in them, and there may be more ahead.
What we’re going to look at here is an optimistic view (with a dash of realism) of what may transpire between now and the Friday after Thanksgiving.
NOTE: If you’re hoping to find long-shot scenarios that involve Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, the firing of Jeff Long, or John L. Smith back-roading with an intern and getting canned, look elsewhere.
Arkansas (1-2) vs. Rutgers (3-0)
First things first: Tyler Wilson returns. And that, along with the shiny white helmets (hey, the kids like ‘em) helps the Hogs establish a new identity. Dennis Johnson gets the bulk of the carries as Knile Davis continues to round back into 2010 form. Tank Wright is back at home at defensive end on passing downs, giving the defense a much-needed rush specialist and leaving zone coverages to those more adept.
After two quick scores put Arkansas ahead early, Rutgers climbs back to tie it at halftime. But with Wilson in the huddle, the Hogs won’t fold, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 20-10 in the second half.
RAZORBACKS 34, SCARLET KNIGHTS 24
Arkansas (2-2, 0-1) at Texas A&M (2-1, 0-1)
Even from an optimistic viewpoint, it looks like Arkansas is going to struggle against a controlled passing attack, especially one led by a mobile quarterback and on the road.
Hogs leave College Station with the name Johnny Manziel ringing in their ears, beaten, but not embarrassed.
AGGIES 37, RAZORBACKS 27
Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) at Auburn (1-3, 0-2)
As bad as it is in Hogland these days, one fanbase that can’t afford to point and laugh is Auburn. The War Tigers are in line for a beatdown at the hands of LSU this week, and while they’ll get a week off to lick their wounds and prepare for the Hogs, it won’t be enough.
Auburn lacks the QB play to take advantage of Arkansas’ weaknesses in the secondary, and when Cam Newton’s not on the field, the Hogs haven’t had much trouble in recent years on the Plains.
RAZORBACKS 29, TIGERS 21
Razorbacks (3-3, 1-2) vs. Kentucky (1-5, 0-3)
With their first SEC win under their belt and the dark days of September fading in the rearview, the Hogs shift gears. A sliding Kentucky team with a coach barely hanging on to his job after successive shellackings from Florida, South Carolina and Mississippi State is the perfect tonic to lift Arkansas’ fledgling confidence.
RAZORBACKS 41, WILDCATS 24
Razorbacks (4-3, 2-2) vs. Ole Miss (3-4, 0-3)
Re-visiting War Memorial, the Hogs break out those charcoal jerseys (hey, the kids like ‘em) to exorcise the demons of Sept. 15 and administer a whooping to Ole Miss’ hapless defense.
RAZORBACKS 56, REBELS 33
Razorbacks (5-3) vs. Tulsa (5-3)
Bowl eligibility is now a win away, but it won’t come easy against the Golden Hurricanes. Perhaps peeking ahead to a daunting homestretch, the Hogs find themselves in a struggle on one of those Homecoming games when nothing goes right.
There to save the day: Knile Davis. Breaking big runs and chewing fourth-quarter clock, the big man in the backfield re-establishes himself as an elite option and reminds Paul Petrino that conservative football can be a beautiful thing.
Razorbacks (6-3, 3-2) at South Carolina (6-3, 4-3)
After a 5-0 start, the wheels have gone wobbly on the Gamecocks, who take three straight losses to Georgia, LSU and Florida before edging Tennessee in a shootout two weeks before the Hogs visit Columbia.
Spurrier will get a bye week to prepare for the Hogs, but South Carolina has never beaten an Arkansas team with a winning record. Tank Wright does his best Jake Bequette impression, delivering a crushing sack to thwart the home team’s final drive.
RAZORBACKS 27, GAMECOCKS 24
Razorbacks (7-3, 4-2) at Mississippi State (6-4, 2-4)
This one’s a shootout from the coin toss. Dennis Johnson sets the pace when he finally gets a kick to return and takes it to the house for his first KO TD of the season. From there, Tyler Wilson and Tyler Russell go toe to toe. I’ll take TW in that duel.
RAZORBACKS 42, BULLDOGS 35
Razorbacks (8-3, 5-2) vs. LSU (10-1, 6-1)
Black jerseys and white helmets can’t overcome superior talent. The upshot: At least there’s no need for the quarterback to call out his teammates after this one.
TIGERS 34, RAZORBACKS 20
Hogs finish 8-4, 5-3. The loss to A&M ends up costing them a return trip to the Cotton Bowl, and the Chick-Fil-A game continues to favor geography over resume and picks South Carolina.
The Gator Bowl may not be what was dreamed of for this team, but after the last two weeks’ dark clouds, doesn't Jacksonville in January sound downright sunny?