"It’s not even gonna be close!" That’s what Razorback great Billy Ray Smith, Jr. recalls Lou Holtz telling the Razorbacks prior to their matchup with top-ranked Texas in 1981. Arkansas was unranked and given little chance to topple the mighty Longhorns, but Holtz, Smith, and some crazy Razorback fans were at their best that stormy Saturday, and Arkansas blew ’em out 42-11.
Incredibly, 32 years have passed since that memorable day. Arkansas is more than 20 years removed from the SWC, and Texas is certainly a far cry from the top spot in college football. Alabama holds that position now, and the Razorbacks’ task Saturday is more monumental than it was then.
Bret Bielema said Wednesday night on his radio show that he told his team he didn’t want "anyone who isn’t going to Tuscaloosa to win the game to get on the plane". That’s the attitude a team has to have. Play with reckless abandon, with nothing to lose, and take your best shot. The fact is, Alabama wins a lot of games even before kickoff. Opponents know going in they must play a near-perfect game to have a chance, and the inevitable mistakes that come from nervousness often spell early doom.
For Arkansas to stay in the game, they’ve got to value possession of the football. As Bret Bielema has told his team more than once this week, Nick Saban is 44-0 at Alabama when his team wins the turnover battle. That’s pretty cut and dried right there. The Hogs recent rash of giveaways has earned them the reputation of being fumble prone, and you can bet the Tide defenders will be trying to rip it out at every opportunity. And the Razorbacks must make Alabama’s offense earn the team’s points. No interceptions returned for touchdowns and no scores in the return game.
Bryant-Denny Stadium can be an imposing place, but I’ve heard it get quiet in a hurry, too. Somebody’s going to beat these guys sooner or later. Might as well be us.
It’s truly a high honor for Jeff Long to be named Chairman of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. It obviously speaks well to his reputation among his peers, as well as the professional and personal respect he has earned over the course of his career. He chairs a committee that has been assigned the task of implementing a sea-change in the sport we love. Once the playoff begins, the game as we know it will never be the same again. Certainly there will be tweaks to the new system as we move forward, but this group will lay the foundation. That’s exciting stuff, and Razorback fans should be proud.