Saturday was why SEC football is about as good as it gets.
It may have been a good weekend to not be playing, like Arkansas. There were some surprises, some yawns and injuries that could affect how the rest of this season plays out for the Razorbacks.
Call it addition by subtraction.
And it makes Saturday’s matchup with Texas A&M suddenly really, really huge for the Hogs and how this season plays out.
After an embarrassing loss to TCU, Arkansas has gone through a week full of outraged fans followed by a level of apathy not seen in a while.
The second is much bigger than the first, particularly for an athletic department desperately trying to sell high-priced luxury boxes on a stadium expansion that is being questioned by some folks in Little Rock already.
As I am like Congress and reserve the right to revise and extend upon my preseason prediction of 6-6 for Arkansas, things have changed yet again. Last week, I changed the Hogs to a 5-7 season.
Now it changes again, this time for the better.
South Carolina, Ole Miss injuries add wins
Unless there is some miraculous recoveries, the Gamecocks losing Deebo Samuel against Kentucky, plus some more time, gives Hogs’ defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads one less thing to worry about in a couple of weeks.
Before that, I had moved South Carolina into a loss for the Hogs. Now I’m putting it into the Likely Win category. I’m not sure the Gamecocks have an answer to replace him.
It’s a similar situation at Ole Miss where their backup center, Eli Johnson, suffered a season-ending knee injury on the final play of the game last week against Tennessee-Martin. It created a problem that manifested itself Saturday night in their loss at California.
That’s not counting the injury to A.J. Brown (knee) and, maybe more importantly, their kicker went out with a hamstring injury. Gary Wunderlich was in the conversation of best kickers in the league and how long he will be out is unknown.
With third-teamers along the line, the Bears simply did some semi-exotic blitz packages and Matt Luke saw his dreams of being the full-time coach in Oxford limp off the field in California.
Yes, I’m calling it now, the Rebels will have a new coach next season.
And Arkansas will get a win there as well and I’m moving the game against the Rebels on Oct. 29 into the Guaranteed Win category.
Some changes in power teams in the West
Auburn still looks massively confused, struggling to beat Mercer with three key offensive players sitting it out.
Why Gus Malzahn even wanted that job is still beyond me. Either Gus was seriously over-rated as an offensive genius or there is something at work in Auburn off the field that causes problems.
The latter is more of a fact than a guess. Pat Dye is actually still weighing in with an opinion that some folks on The Plains actually listen to for some insane reason.
Let’s face it, he cheated so badly the Tigers were in NCAA jail for a couple of years, then proceeded to give him an office (located between athletics director Jay Jacobs and the football coach) and name the field after him.
For a guy who never won a national championship a lot of folks like listening to him drawl on between drinks.
Because of that, I’m putting Auburn into the tossup category for their game against Arkansas on Oct. 21.
LSU obviously isn’t getting better. The lack of discipline on defense (three targeting penalties in one game against one player might cause some other questions) and getting blown out by Mississippi State has raised some issues.
If Ed Orgeron thought he was safe, well, he can forget that. A couple more losses like that and he’ll be just an extended interim solution for the Tigers.
I’m throwing the LSU game into tossup category with Auburn.
The Bulldogs are simply a team that’s going to make some noise. Dan Mullen is the best coach outside of Tuscaloosa and may do more with less than any other coach in the SEC.
Because of that I’m moving the game against Mississippi State into the loss category for the Hogs.
Let’s sort all this out now
With two games played, there will be no more weekends off for awhile. A long while.
At 1-1, we’re starting even on the Hogs’ schedule, so let’s look at it in depth again.
Okay, they have to play the game, but right now these teams are clearly better than Arkansas and, barring injuries or a total collapse, are going to be difficult to beat.
The Hogs won’t beat Alabama or Mississippi State.
That’s it. Right now, those are the only two teams I’ll say are losses.
New Mexico State, South Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Ole Miss, Missouri
Now we’re at 6-3 with three games left that I’m putting into the toss-up category.
Auburn and LSU right now are complete wildcards. After the way both played this week I would keep it a tossup until halftime of a matchup with Arkansas.
Let’s say the Hogs win both of those games. It looks a lot more realistic now than it did a week ago, doesn’t it?
Getting a win over Texas A&M could make the Hogs a nine-win team.
That’s if nothing else changes the rest of the way.
Which it will.