The long offseason of our discontent is finally over as football gloriously returns.
Naturally, most local eyes are on Fayetteville, where Bret Bielema will debuted against Louisiana-Lafayette at 3 p.m. last Saturday. Nobody, it seems, has a good handle on what to think about the 2013 version of the Razorbacks. You start talking about how many games Arkansas will win and "Ehh, I don’t know" comes up quite a bit.
Fittingly, I bumped into an old friend last week at our kids’ school’s open house. He’s a seriously committed Razorback fan, always found on gameday wearing an old school Uncle Heavy’s Hog Hat at his tailgates. I’ve seen him yell at the TV and curse the coaches after wins (admittedly, it was the Houston Nutt era, so he wasn’t alone in doing that).
After some chit-chat, I asked what he thought about the season. His answer: "I don’t even care about this season."
With it being Bielema’s first season of getting Arkansas back to playing "Real American Football," combined with an inexperienced quarterback in Brandon Allen and some huge question marks on defense, particularly at linebacker, he says he just wants to see growth from the start of the season to the end. If the team takes some lumps along the way, that’s part of the learning curve. Get better and get ready for next season. Besides, it can’t be worse than the traveshamockery of the John L. Smith 4-8 season in 2012, right?
That’s the perfect mindset to have for the forthcoming season — albeit one that is difficult to maintain when the game kicks off. That said, a prediction is required in this space.
The Razorbacks have three wins in their pocket to start the season against Louisiana-Lafayette(), Samford and Southern Miss. Rutgers should be a win as well, but a difficult one. That will have Arkansas at 4-0. Then things get dicey.
Unless Johnny Manziel is suspended and Kevin Sumlin fired as head coach, the Aggies will beat Arkansas. It will start a bad month of October with losses at Florida, to South Carolina and at Alabama. Maybe schedule some weekends in the deer woods for bow and/or muzzleloading season as the Razorbacks drop to 4-4.
The grudge match between Bielema and Fort Smith’s Gus Malzahn on Nov. 2 might be a toss-up. Will the defense have improved enough to slow down Auburn’s uptempo offense or will it have lost all confidence from a month of losing games? Lean to the latter, plus Malzahn will surely have some extras cooked up for Arkansas.
A loss to Ole Miss and then a mild upset against Mississippi State leaves the Razorbacks at 5-6 (or maybe 6-5 if they can beat Auburn). The final Thanksgiving weekend game against LSU won’t be one Arkansas fans want to remember.
Best-case scenario is Arkansas manages to get to 6-6. Thanks to the glut of pointless bowl games, that will get the Hogs a berth in one. The past few seasons, it would have been disappointing to wind up in the type of bowl game that’ll take a 6-6 team. In 2013, Arkansas fans should see it as a cause for celebration.
Scott Faldon is the Times Record sports editor. His Five Thoughts about college football appears online each Wednesday at swtimes.com/sections/sports/sports-blog. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @SF_TimesRecord.