Off seasons are always longer when they come after a loss, right? I've been carrying around the bitter defeat in New Orleans for months now, as we all have, and I am willing to admit that I am ready to see the Hogs obliterate an opposing team (FCSschool, I don't care) in order to further put the Sugar Bowl (vacated) behind us. The rest of January, then February, March, April, May, June, July, August, they've all been mile markers to this coming Saturday when the red and white come out again in force, and Hog calls again echo through the Ozarks and the rest of the Natural State. From Little Rock office towers to Delta farms, thoughts this week are turned towards this Saturday and kickoff. I don't know exactly how much I am in-touch with the over soul of the Hogs, the great collective spirit of Razorback nation, but I imagine a good many of my pre-game thoughts are your own. To wit:
* Will the Hogs be wearing anything different from last season when they run out on the field against Missouri State? As much as I wish we would return to the look we had under Nutt, I was starting to get used to last year's uniforms.
* Would like to see a mainly Brandon Mitchell second half. He needs some before the lights game experience. And I think if he gets it we'll see a much better performance than what we saw on ESPN during the spring game.
* Please Football Gods, don't let any other Razorback get seriously injured on Saturday. I still recall that year under Nutt when the whole team just about was injured and he had to get a quarterback from the intramural squad. I don't want us to have that type of season. Losing Knile Davis is enough of a hardship.
* But I will say that I am excited about seeing what our remaining backs do on Saturday. Would also like to see Wingo and Johnson out after the first half with Kody Walker and Kelvin Fisher getting the carries in the second half.
* I am trying to mentally prepare myself for some "I can't believe they just did that" moments. There will be some nerves and some resulting botched assignments. Missouri State will not win, but they will do a few things to make us say, "Oh, my gawd! What have the Hogs been doing all off-season?"
* I already have my share of life stressors, so the thought has been going through my head of how insane it is that I am about to add at least twelve days of emotional rollercoasterism, haha, to my life. I can't control a darn thing that goes on during a game, but I am going to put the state of my emotional well being up to the goings on of a bunch of 18-22 year olds I've never met. I guess I should count myself as lucky that I live a comfortable enough life that I can afford to worry over something like a football team. Maybe after each opposing team's touchdown, I need to say this mantra, "I am employed, I am employed, I am employed."
* For the other teams in the SEC, I think there might be some novelty in the idea of Texas A&M coming to the SEC. But the Hogs have played them the last two years, and they are contracted to play them for ten years total. I know we'll see one hell of an effort coming from the Aggies at the Southwest Classic this year. They need to make a big statement by beating an SEC team, something which they haven't done since the mid 1990s. If the Hogs win it this year, how about the Arkansas side chanting "Wannabes" instead of "S-E-C"? haha. And if the Aggies win? I can't really imagine them shouting "Big 12!" can you?
* Like everybody, I'll calculate my first weekend viewing based upon what is best for the Hogs. If I can find a way to find a best for the Hogs scenario while watching Maryland vs. Miami, I'll do so and thus root for that team. But I think it will be the Oregon vs. LSU and other high profile SEC games where as much as I don't care for the team (LSU), I will pull for them for the sake of conference reputation and by extension the Hogs.
* I really like how the first three games go up in difficulty (at least from what we can tell), and then we hit Everest in Alabama at Tuscaloosa.
* Will we see Dennis Johnson returning kicks? Before Knile went down, it was a sure bet that we would. Now, hmm.
* I work on a college campus, and it is game week here too, but I can't stop thinking of how much more exciting it would be to be in Fayetteville right now instead. When you work at a place that you never attended yourself, you find yourself thinking of yourself as more of a step-child to the alma mater that everybody on campus is so excited about. I imagine there are professors in Fayetteville right now who just aren't that excited about the coming season and will find themselves at home trying to catch the Penn State game somewhere in the television universe.
* Who isn't wondering about which Hog will score the first touchdown? For me, I would like to see either Greg Childs or Dennis Johnson make the first touchdown. They've both waited longer than the others.
* I wonder too if up in Boston, Ryan Mallett might have a few stray thoughts about what it would have been like to start his senior year as a Razorback on Saturday. He's now an expat Pat, right? haha. If he thinks too long on the idea of it, he'll eventually think about the Hogs' rather youthful offensive line and probably feel right at home in Beantown.
* How many interceptions will Tramain Thomas get in the first three games? I say at least one. I've been loving that guy's nose for the ball since the Liberty Bowl.
* Any chance at all that the Hogs' score gets mentioned on College Football Final come late hours of Saturday night, wee hours of Sunday morning? I put it below ten percent. 100 percent if somehow the Hogs manage to lose. Such is life, right?
* Will be curious to see if we see improvement on kick-off coverage. This has been a weak spot for the Hogs for too long! Would love to see a season where the kicker never leaves the field short of breath.
* The defense? Could the Hogs' defense create a shutout in all three games? Not likely. But it would be a super cool way to start the season, would it not?
* Missouri State has lost their starting quarterback. I just hope the Hogs don't find a way to make the backup shine as they have been prone to do in the past. I don't think they will, at least not for the whole game. Prediction for the game: Hogs 47, Missouri State 10.
* Macro-Thought: Where will this season end? You can't think about the beginning of the season without, as a fan, having thoughts about the end of the season. Only players have to take it one game at a time. Back in May, I said the Hogs would win the SEC, but have too many losses (two) for an invite to the National Championship game. They would play in the Sugar Bowl again, but win it this time. That was pre Knile Davis injury thinking there. Now I would have to say that I would be more surprised than not if my original prediction held up. Like in seasons past, that date with the other capital "A" team, Alabama, is going to tell us a lot about where the season will end. Last year it told us we needed a good running game and that Ryan could choke a game away. We got the running game, but unfortunately, Ryan still had another game killing interception inside him. But that was then. This is now. And in a few more nows, it will be Saturday, and Game Day itself will be here. Enjoy it, my fellow Hogs. I look forward to spending another season with you here on the best Razorback blog around. Woo Pig Sooie!