After Saturday's shellacking at the hands of Ole Miss, Razorback fans today appear to be mired in a deep and stubborn melancholy. To those who feel the need to seek out a Prozac prescription, I quote the wise Sergeant Hulka: "Lighten up, Francis."
There is still much football to be played, and Arkansas has the most brutal part of its schedule out of the way (of course, that's not to say that any SEC game is going to be easy, or that the Hogs can afford to overlook Troy). The team has a fighting chance of snagging a postseason birth and could even appear in a not-completely-uninspiring bowl if they get hot enough. Considering that this is the second year of what I would deem a fairly extensive rebuilding project, I'll take it.
On the other hand, given our youth and - to put it charitably - our inconsistent defense, a second straight season without a bowl trip is a real possibility. But once again, we're rebuilding.
Of course, a major part of today's collective funk arises not from how the Hogs played but from the fact that they lost to Houston Nutt for the second year in a row. Arkansas fans have spent so much time over the last two years demonizing and lampooning Nutt that some of us seem to have forgotten that, along with his weaknesses, he has some considerable strengths. And one of those strengths is rallying his team for an emotional and well-played win when their backs are against the wall.
Conversely, we've been so love-struck with Bobby Petrino that many of us failed to consider that a team coached by him could look so helpless against one coached by the demonic Nutt. But like Nutt, Petrino has strengths and weaknesses and holding him up on a "can-do-no-wrong" pedestal is silly. Make no mistake, I'm excited about the future under Bobby. But there are going to be games when his teams, no matter how talented, look bad. That's just the nature of sports.
So step away from the ledge and get ready for what should be an absorbing finish to the 2009 season. And remember to take deep breaths: this is a young and flawed team, one that is as likely to disappoint as it is to exhilarate.