Rather, we sort of play with our food, instead of consuming it whole and with greedy alacrity.
Jacksonville State scored 24 points Saturday night, which, I surmise from many commenters across the web, is supposed to represent some kind of miserable failing by the Razorback defense. Yes, the Gamecocks had a buzzsaw-like touchdown drive at the end of the first half, and yes, they marched downfield rather easily for their first score. The rest of the night? Truth be told, Paul Haynes' bunch did a pretty fair job of snuffing out drives, as our own Randy Reece pointed out in his excellent post about statistics and their capacity to mislead.
If you've been paying attention to Arkansas football lately, though, this should hardly be shocking.
On one hand, Arkansas has been a fairly sure bet in recent years: going back to 2009, every game that the Razorbacks have lost (three against Alabama, two against LSU and single defeats at the hands of Ole Miss, Ohio State, Georgia, Auburn and Florida) has not been much of a surprise. They were underdogs in all those defeats, and in all but two, the opponent was ranked in the Top 10.
The Hogs have routinely dispatched the lesser foes on their schedule during that same period, but frankly, there have been a lot of ragged moments, to wit:
2009 - Surrendered 27 points to a winless Eastern Michigan team and 20 to Troy in late-season tilts in Fayetteville.
2010 - Slogged past Louisiana Monroe 31-7, leading only 7-0 at halftime and 14-0 through three quarters. Later fell behind early against UTEP in Fayetteville, surrendering long touchdowns before pulling away 58-21.
2011 - Opened up a 24-7 lead against Troy only to limp to the finish with a 38-28 win. In conference play, barely nudged by an Ole Miss team that finished 2-10 after falling behind 17-0, then similarly escaped a 6-7 Vanderbilt team the next week.
That's not to say that this same period hasn't seen its share of workmanlike beatdowns, but even in those games, the Hogs showed some warts. Against Tennessee Tech in 2010, Arkansas had three inexcusable turnovers and struggled to establish the run. Last year the Hogs pummeled New Mexico 52-3, but lost the turnover battle 2-0 and memorably failed to record a sack against a Lobo team that had yielded a whopping 10 of those the prior week.
The cautionary aspect of games like the one against Jacksonville State is that Arkansas continues to front-load its schedule with dessert, if you will, while the teams it aspires to take down (LSU, Alabama, etc.) are being more aggressive early in the year. Alabama's impressive win over Michigan at Cowboys Stadium came a year after the Tigers began their pursuit of the BCS title game by waxing a very good Oregon team in the same confines.
Certainly there's room to critique and even criticize the play on the field after every game, but it's far more troubling to me that the scheduling continues to be so uneven. Playing Rutgers the week after what will assuredly be a draining game against Alabama, win or loss, hardly solves the quandary.