The Razorbacks will finish 7-5 this fall. Count on it.
Major League Baseball is well underway, the National Basketball League is winding down and summer is just around the corner. So, naturally, it’s time for all true Arkansans to think about Razorbacks football in the fall, right?
Of course it is! This is Arkansas and that means we’re always interested in talking about how the Hogs will turn out in the upcoming season. That’s how things work around First Arkansas News and you’re in luck — it’s barely June and we stand ready to predict within an acceptable margin of error (+/- 7 games on the win side, to be precise).
The entire Hog Nation will watch this season closely simply because of the events that unfolded last year. Prior to the 2012 season, there was a lot of talk about how the Hogs were primed to make a run at the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship and a solid win in a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bowl. All of that talk was silenced after former Head Coach Bobby Petrino went on a motorcycle ride on April Fools Day, got in a wreck and wound up getting fired a few days later.
What was the problem? The 51-year-old father of four was on that motorcycle with his mistress, 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell. Petrino tried to cover up the fact he was out tooling around Madison County with his mistress, but the truth came out soon enough. So, Petrino undoubtedly had an angry wife to deal with after the incident. He also had an angry University of Arkansas to deal with as the UA Athletic Department hired Dorrell as football student-athlete development coordinator a few days prior to the accident. Oh, and Petrino gave her $20,000 at some point.
It seems the UA had a problem with all of that. While Dorrell was a star volleyball player at the UA (and was, in fact, still a student when Petrino became head football coach in 2007), allegations flew all over the place that Petrino used his influence to secure a cushy job for his paramour. That, folks, is why Petrino lost his job. Dorrell lost her job at the UA, too.
Meanwhile, Petrino was named head coach for Western Kentucky in December and Dorrell reportedly went into fundraising for the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.
Now, Arkansans were excited over the 2012 season prior to Petrino’s famous ride and there’s a good reason for that — the Hogs chalked up two losses in 2011 and compiled a 21-5 record in 2010 and 2011. It appeared the stars were lining up for the first time in years.
To understand what a letdown the whole Petrino incident was, one has to remember that Arkansas spent 10 years watching bad football under Houston Nutt — a bum of a coach who wound up ruining Ole Miss before that team sent him packing in 2011 following an awe inspiring 0-12 record. Ole Miss, by the way, got four seasons out of Nutt and a 10-22 conference record. Ouch.
And, 2012 was a letdown. Interim Head Coach John L. Smith led the Razorbacks to a dismal 2-6 SEC record (4-8 overall), but did manage to entertain fans with his embarrassing financial problems in 2012 — he did file for bankruptcy in September due to some terrible real estate investments and that was far more interesting than his team’s dismal performance. So, Smith was out and Arkansas managed to hire Brett Bielema from Wisconsin. Over seven seasons at Wisconsin, the Badgers put together a 37-19 conference record and became a solid team in the Big 10. Wisconsin’s bowl record of 2-4 under Bielema is nothing to write home about, but Razorbacks fans are optimistic.
I hate to tell you this, Razorbacks fans, but 2013 isn’t going to be the year the Razorbacks return to glory. Bielema’s got to get used to the SEC, the defense is still spotty and the Hogs’ durable quarterback, Tyler Wilson, is gonesville. Still, 2013 will be entertaining as far as building years go and here’s how it’ll turn out next year.
* Aug. 31 — Louisiana (Fayetteville). Remember, we’re not talking about LSU — we’re just talking about Louisiana. If Bielema’s Hogs can’t pull off a win here, look for Razorbacks fans to run the new coach out of town. Mark this one down as a win.
* Sept. 7 — Samford (Little Rock). Yes, it’s another cupcake team from a school with which about five people in Arkansas are familiar. If Arkansas manages to lose this one, count on angry fans to run everyone on the team out of town, thus putting a very early end to the season. Mark this one down as a win.
* Sept. 14 — Southern Miss (Fayetteville). Southern Miss managed to pull of a winless season last year. If the Hogs can’t kick the tar out of this team at home, angry fans may see to it that the team doesn’t get out of the stadium alive. A win.
* Sept. 21 — Rutgers (at Piscataway, N.J.). Go ahead and try to say Piscataway three times fast. Can’t do it, can you? At any rate, Rutgers showed up last year and managed to embarrass the Razorbacks by cramming a 26-35 loss down their throats. The Hogs will be out to right that wrong, so count this one as a win.
* Sept. 28 — Texas A&M (Fayetteville). Things should be going well for Arkansas at this point as the team should have the confidence that comes with a 4-0 record, right? Confidence won’t be enough to see the Hogs through the first SEC game of the season, sadly. A&M put up an impressive 11-2 overall record (6-2 in the SEC) record during its first year in the conference and creamed Arkansas 10-58. How about that for confidence? A&M has some skill, too, so chalk this one down as a loss.
* Oct. 5 — Florida (at Gainesville). –Arkansas hasn’t beaten Florida since 1982 in the Blue Bonnet Bowl. Expect the streak to continue. Loss.
* Oct. 12 — South Carolina (Fayetteville). South Carolina finished 8th in the nation last year, Arkansas finished 6th in the SEC west and 11th in the SEC overall (out of 14 teams). Do the math. Loss.
* Oct 19 — Alabama (at Tuscaloosa). If Bielema manages to travel to Alabama and beat the defending national champions, Hogs fans will insist that he run for the governor’s office. Should he refuse, he’ll be able to coach here as long as he wants (providing he doesn’t pull a Petrino and ruin his career). Don’t count on a victory, though. Loss.
* Nov. 2 — Auburn (Fayetteville). Just what Arkansas needs after a brutal four-game series and a bye week — a team that finished last year with no wins in the SEC and is breaking in Head Coach Gus Malzahn. It is very true that Malzahn is a fantastic coach, but Auburn actually has more problems than Arkansas. Win.
* Nov. 9 — Ole Miss (at Oxford). This one may be close on paper, but people need to realize that Arkansas still dislikes Ole Miss over the whole “we hired Houston Nutt so let’s make fun of Arkansas” thing. A lot of the kids playing for the Razorbacks remember those times, too. It’s time for some more revenge. Win.
* Nov. 23 — Mississippi State (Little Rock). Uh, Mississippi State isn’t that great, either, and they’ll travel to Little Rock to face Arkansas and its loud, drunken fans (the ones who can actually pull themselves away from the tailgating parties to stagger into the stadium, of course). This one’s close, but let’s call it a win.
* Nov. 30 — LSU (at Baton Rouge). Arkansas hasn’t a chance. Why? LSU is very good and Arkansas will need a win to get into a decent bowl. Go look through your Hogs history and one fact stands out — when Arkansas really needs a win to set themselves up for even a mid-level bowl, the team folds faster than Superman on laundry day. Loss.
Where does that leave us? The Hogs will put together a 7-5 overall record (3-5 in the SEC, which is the only stat that really matters considering the cupcakes on the schedule) and will travel to some low level bowl. It’ll feel like the Nutt years, only the Hogs have a coach that gives fans reasons to feel optimistic about the future.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.