FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas has never been able to master a win in Florida. They beat the in the Bluebonnet Bowl down in the Astrodome after a disappointing 1982 season, but since 1992 they’ve only won one time. That came in 2016 and the Gators ended up winning the SEC East, but weren’t too interested in a game here.
Now the Razorbacks have to go to Gainesville where they’ve had some spectacular misfires and actually managed to lose a game in 2009 they should have won. The officials got suspended but Florida still ended up in the SEC Championship game and count it as a win. The Hogs are struggling at 2-6 but the Gators aren’t a whole lot better at 4-4.
Neither one of them will really have a shot at a bowl game losing this one, which creates a desperation scenario on both sides. The Hogs will have a first-time playcaller in Kenny Guiton after Sam Pittman fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos after not scoring a single touchdown in a 7-3 loss to Mississippi State.
Some of the Hogs’ fans are expecting a completely new look but the reality is not a whole lot is going to change except they’ll do it faster. That does set up the scene for an awful lot of jokes if the plan backfires at Florida. Rocket Sanders is expected to be back on the field, but nobody really expects him to be at the top of his game. He’s simply missed too much playing time.
What has been interesting this week is to watch the betting line, which has fallen from over 6 earlier in the week all the way down to 3 on Friday. That’s the amount of points the home team gets in a game, which means the feeling is the two teams are about equal.
For the Hog fans that’s some good news to hear. The only problem has been they have fallen apart at critical times and I’m not really sure just making a change in the offensive coordinator is going to magically fix everything just changing the offensive coordinator.
They didn’t do a whole lot of practicing with the bye week. That was more to get their legs back under them and adjust to a new way of looking at things. When Pittman said earlier this week about 30% of the playbook got thrown in the trash, a lot of people were expecting much more. That wasn’t going to happen at this point of the season with any success.
Pittman knows he just needs a win to have whatever hope at the outside shot of winning all four of the remaining games just to make a bowl in a rather disappointing destination. Pittman wants the extra practice time or else it’s hit the recruiting road at full speed to lock down his commitments and pick up any remaining players before the December signing date.
If it does work it’s going to say an awful lot about the psychology on football teams. Yeah, that’s important but not nearly as important as having really good players. For whatever reason, not a whole lot has come together well for the Hogs this year.
Right now, hope is about all the fans have going forward. The feeling is Pittman isn’t going to be without a job after this year, regardless of what happens in the next four games. That may or may not be the case. Most of that talk I’ve heard has come from the same people “in the know” that didn’t have a clue about Mike Anderson about to be fired a few years back. Despite what you think, they don’t make the decisions.
This game is going to come down to who can make the plays when it counts. The Hogs haven’t had a truly consistent playmaker come forward this year and that may be needed at Florida because they do have some players. Sure, Florida has some injuries, but the Hogs have had a bunch this year, too. Being on the road is what makes the difference in this game. Gators 34, Hogs 31
Pete Morgan has probably intently read this far just to read me mention his name. Since I haven’t heard a word from him all week he may have just figured there wasn’t enough time to dig out of the hole he’s in anyway. His situation is more desperate than the Hogs find themselves right now, one win away from bowl elimination.
Kentucky (-4.5) at Mississippi State: There have been photos of the Bulldogs’ fancy painting of the field in Starkville, but they will need to play a lot better than they did in a 7-3 win over Arkansas a couple of weeks ago. They were lucky to win that ugly game but the Wildcats aren’t exactly a bad team. Unless Kentucky just helps them an awful lot the only question mark is if Mississippi State can cover the spread. Wildcats 24, Bulldogs 7
Texas A&M at Ole Miss (3): The knee-jerk thought on this one is a high-scoring shootout which this year in the SEC probably may mean it could be another low-scoring defensive struggle. The Rebels probably don’t have a real shot at making it to Atlanta because they do have to go to Georgia next weekend. The Aggies are hanging on for dear life. Rebels 31, Aggies 21
UConn at Tennessee (-35): Not every game is must-watch TV in the league this week. Barring a complete collapse by the Vols this one shouldn’t really be that close. Vols 52, UConn 7
Jacksonville State at South Carolina (-14.5): Based on the difference in records you’d think this one might be when there’s a big upset, but the talent difference is real. Unless Spencer Rattler just falls apart the Gamecocks will win, but it won’t be that surprising if they don’t cover. Gamecocks 35, Jacksonville State 27
Missouri at Georgia (-15.5): The Tigers’ dream season comes to meet reality. Yes, Mizzou had seven wins before Halloween but they hadn’t really played anybody. That comes to a screeching halt Saturday. It could be a win if the Tigers can manage to score enough to blow it for people taking the Bulldogs. Bulldogs 42, Missouri 10
Auburn (-12.5) at Vanderbilt: Maybe the best part of the Razorbacks’ season is they aren’t the worst team in the SEC. Thank you, Vandy. The Tigers might make it close if they are looking ahead to next week’s game with the Hogs up here. Do not be surprised if this one isn’t close for a half before it comes apart. The Commodores simply don’t have enough players to keep up for 60 minutes … but this has been one of those seasons in the league. Tigers 38, Vandy 21