As I was sitting in the woods surrounding Arkansas’ Bull Shoals Lake this past weekend, waiting on an unsuspecting deer to walk by, I thought about the past Arkansas vs. Tennessee match-ups since the Hogs joined the SEC in 1992.
Arkansas does not have a very good record all-time against the Volunteers. As a matter of fact, the Hogs have only beaten the Vols four times in sixteen meetings. Arkansas and Tennessee played each other every year from 1992 through 2002, until the SEC changed up its’ cross-division scheduling.
The Hogs won only twice in that span (1992, 1999), while suffering some tough losses at the hands of the Vols. The two teams met again in 2006 and 2007, splitting those games.
The schools also met in two bowl games when the UA was still in the old Southwest Conference. Tennessee won both the 1971 Liberty Bowl, thanks in no small part to referee Preston Watts unbelievably horrible calls, as well as the 1990 Cotton Bowl.
But this past Saturday night in Fayetteville, there was no doubt which team is on the rise and which team has become stagnant. The Hogs buried the Vols 49-7, under a barrage of precision passes, tough running, hard-nosed defense, and a marvelous punt return by Joe Adams that very well could win an ESPY.
On a night when Jarius Wright broke the Arkansas career receptions record, and Joe Adams took center stage on a national scale for his dynamic special teams play, Head Coach Bobby Petrino’s first signing class played their final game at Razorback Stadium. Seventeen seniors were honored on this Senior Night, and they didn’t disappoint.
Adams scored on special teams and with a reception. Wright scored a touchdown to go along with his 5 catches for 94 yards. Running Back Broderick Green scored, RB De’Anthony Curtis scored, safety Tramain Thomas nabbed an interception, and DE Jake Bequette had a sack. These players will be missed in 2012, but they have helped lay the foundation for future success at the University of Arkansas.
The Hogs moved to 9-1 on the season, and jumped to #6 in each poll.
Arkansas now turns their attention to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, and their home finale in Little Rock this weekend. MSU comes into this game at 5-5 after dropping some winnable games against South Carolina and Auburn.
The Dogs defense is pretty good, but it’s not as stout as last years group. MSU is ranked in the middle of the pack in almost every defensive statistical category in the SEC. Miss St does have two of the best secondary players in the conference when it comes to interceptions. Johnthan Banks (5) and Nickoe Whitley (4) are ranked as some of the SEC’s best ball-hawks, but Whitley may not play this Saturday due to injury.
Offensively, the Dogs are mixed nicely with over 167 yards rushing and 203 passing. Running back Vick Ballard is their bell-cow, with 811 yards and 7 TD. QB’s Chris Relf and Tyler Russell are both sure to play, and receiver Chad Bumphis is their big play threat.
Arkansas has better overall talent and depth than MSU, and with the way they have been playing for the last few weeks, there aren’t too many teams in the country that could beat the Hogs right now. Plus, they have a huge home field advantage in War Memorial Stadium, which is their home away from home. MSU has beaten the Hogs only twice in the last fourteen years, and have not won in the state of Arkansas since 1993.
While the Bulldogs still need one more victory to become bowl eligible, and would love nothing better than to derail Arkansas’ shot at another BCS Bowl game, MSU’s best shot at their sixth win will be Thanksgiving weekend versus a beleaguered Ole Miss squad.
The Hogs simply have too much to play for.
Oh, and by the way, I missed that unsuspecting deer that came running by. I gotta get that scope sighted in better.