After an interminably long offseason, spring practices, summer practices, a warm-up game against an overmatched opponent and the most poorly-timed bye week ever, the real football season starts this Saturday when the Georgia Bulldogs roll into Fayetteville. Finally!!!
Savvy Razorback fans know that in most seasons, the Alabama game portends how the rest of the year will go (just look back to the results of the last three Bama games to see how they mirrored the rest of those years, for example). But, this year I'm going to boldly predict that our tussle with the Bulldogs will be that key indicator.
It's our first real test of the season, and seems to be enough of a genuine toss-up that no one really knows how it will go (in fact, looking at the schedule it's probably the most mysterious game on there). And the stakes are high: a win will validate all the hype around the Hogs being a much-improved team and show the rest of the league that the Petrino era has begun in earnest. A loss means we're not there yet...you have to win these types of games to be a threat in the SEC, and with Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU all coming up on the road it gets a lot tougher from here.
Plus, there are so many questions that need to be answered. Can Ryan Mallett and the Petrino offense thrive against an SEC defense? Can we get our short yardage running game going? Can the defense stop anybody? Can our special teams avoid completely ruining everything??
On top of that, it's going to be on national TV, with Erin Andrews there and everything. So it's a big deal.
Looking at the teams, the Hogs have been preparing for this one all summer and you know the players will be pumped to see some meaningful action (maybe too excited)? As for the Dawgs, they're coming off a brutal loss to Oklahoma State and a narrow win over South Carolina. They're banged up and haven't looked particularly impressive, which is precisely what worries me.
Maybe I'm just scarred by years of painful defeats in situations like this during the Houston Nutt era, and maybe the Petrino Hogs really will take care of business with a cold-blooded, shark-eyed attitude, but I'm not convinced that we're quite there yet. I guess I just need to see that we can win these games before truly believing that we actually will. Having said that, of course, I am more excited for this game than any other one in recent memory, and will certainly be frightening both my family and next-door neighbors with a lot of vigorous cheering.
What do you think?