Sunday, November 28, 2010

Change of Pace

This "No Greener Grass" idea was started solely with the Cardinals in mind. It has now occurred to me that the offseason is far too long and dead air is rough on the ratings. Luckily, we, the NGG contributors, are fluid and flexible. Rather than restricting the posts to St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball, let’s expand to other things, as well. This next thought is a little out there, I know, but…expanding horizons may actually lead to more people being interested in the page and produce a new follower or two. Doubling my followership may be a little overzealous, but I like to shoot for the stars.

With no further adieu…

‘Tis a great year to be a Razorback, indeed. As is the case for just about every school (except “Little Sisters of the Poor” apparently), the Hogs came into the season with high hopes. They were high even by Arkansas standards. This was to be the year in which all the stars aligned and that wild pack of Razorbacks got that ever-elusive second national title. After all, the conference appeared to be more balanced, top to bottom, than it was in the previous 4 national championship years. That’s not to say the league was down, but there definitely was no clear-cut number 1 coming into the season. Plus, Bama had to come to Fayetteville this time around and that defense couldn’t possibly reload fast enough to hold Petrino down. Don’t forget about Mallett’s canon and the surplus of targets with which he had to aim it.

All that optimism went out the window after the first two weeks. The offense looked sluggish both weeks and the defense failed to record a shutout either game. Keep in mind, the final scores did end up being 44-3 and 31-7. Did I mention how high the expectations were? I will admit that neither game felt that lopsided, but I’d much rather win games in that fashion as opposed to embarrassing people by 60 points a game like USC or Miami teams of old. And, let’s be honest, they could have done like the majority of us do when playing Madden and just run the same 3 or 4 plays the whole game and walked away with the W. They caught a big break when heading to Athens by not having to deal with AJ Green. The secondary showed time and time again that they are still not quite as talented as they, often times, think they are, especially when matching up against big receivers like Green. But this is SEC football we are talking about here. No one is at full strength after the first snap. Arkansas played basically the entire season without Dennis Johnson (refer to kickoff return averages to fully gage his impact) and the last four games without Greg Childs. That game still proved to be the first real test for the team. Athens was still a hostile environment at that stage of the season and this group of Hogs had yet to prove themselves on the road against an SEC opponent.

Then came Alabama. Oh, Nick Saban, you sly dog, you. Total lack of a running game cost them in the end. After looking past and escaping A&M in Dallas, it was time to head to Auburn. A number of factors worked against them in that game; including, but not limited to, the Great Cam Newton and the infamous SEC officials. Fast forward to Little Rock post Thanksgiving dinner and they overcame the sloppiest of starts to put together an extraordinarily complete effort against the number 5 team in the land AND the Mad Hatter himself, Lucky Les (a feat in and of itself).

If you take Newton and his six-figure payout away from Auburn, the Hogs sit at 10-1. If you take the state of Alabama off of the map (would anyone miss it anyway?), the Hogs would be undefeated and ready to take on Oregon or TCU or the team of Gordon Gee’s choice. Somehow, a running game was discovered from nowhere midseason. It may have taken that long for the new philosophy to sink in or, possibly, it took that long for the players to buy into it or, perhaps, it just took the right combination of both mixed with a healthy dose of Knile Davis to right the ship. Mallett may have lost his chance at several pieces of hardware to put on his mantel but he did nothing to take away from his pro stock and ensured himself of a hefty 8-figure payday in the not-so-distant future. Also, along the same lines, Tyler Wilson did little other than provide optimism for the coming years, as well.

So, here they sit, at 10-2 and number 7 in the next to last BCS poll of the season, as the biggest Auburn fans in the country for one time and one time only. A Tiger victory in the SEC title game all but secures Arkansas’ first BCS bowl invitation. The system obviously makes no sense to anyone, but the Sugar Bowl committee surely sits poised to invite some crazy Arkansans down to the beautiful New Orleans for a day or two. Independent of bowl destinations (they’re all essentially consolation games anyway), this has been a truly magical season for that team up in the Ozarks.

Allow me to reiterate: ‘tis a great year to be a Razorback.

Here’s to you Auburn.

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