It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year August 31, 2011Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: Alabama, arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi St., NCAA football, Ole Miss, predictions, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
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With wish lists in hand and hopes and dreams in our hearts and minds, we gather together with family and friends to usher in that magical time of year when all things seem possible, when optimism infects each and every one of us with a radical zeal that defies reality, when our belief in something greater than ourselves trumps all misconceptions. On this illustrious eve we wait with bated breath, our anticipation growing by the second as the time quickly approaches. What challenges, what joys, what agonies, what triumphs await us in the coming months.
Yes, college football season starts tomorrow.
Tomorrow evening, the iconic swine-covered orb will be kicked off, launched down the field with a jubilant yell like those first flights into outer space. The faithful will don their chosen colors, greet each other in a traditional manner, whether that be a “Roll Tide,” a “Hotty Toddy,” or, in our case, a “Woo Pig,” stand for their beloved fight song and cheer their team on to victory.
But all will not be victorious, for there are always some casualties along the way as each squad vies for dominance on 100 yard field of battle. Favorites will fall, heroes will rise, and the faithful believers will grasp tightly to each and every win, savoring the sweet taste of victory on the long march through the Fall season and into the frigid depths of winter. In the end only one team will stand as a champion, but today, on the precipice of another football season, we are all undefeated.
I sketched out my SEC predictions for my coworkers, so I thought I would share them with you as well. Let me know what you think.
Georgia 9-3 (6-2)
South Carolina 9-3 (5-3)
Florida 8-4 (5-3)
Tennessee 6-6 (2-6)
Kentucky 5-7 (1-7)
Vanderbilt 2-10 (0-8)
Alabama 11-1 (7-1)
LSU 10-2 (7-1)
Arkansas 10-2 (6-2)
Auburn 8-4 (4-4)
Mississippi St. 7-5 (3-5)
Ole Miss 5-7 (2-6)
Georgia: While many of their conference foes are starting off the year with what they deem to be surefire wins, the Bulldogs are launching their season with an always-tough Boise St. They have arguably the best quarterback in the league in Aaron Murray, and a favorable SEC schedule (their only away games are Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, with Florida at a neutral site), but the SEC is a meat grinder and they are not of the elite caliber to keep them unscathed. Their week 2 home game against South Carolina will set the tone of the season.
South Carolina: Last year the Gamecocks advanced to their first SEC Championship game on the sturdy back of running back Marcus Lattimore, and his return is the key to success for Steve Spurrier’s team this season. Their schedule is tough, with away games at Georgia, Mississippi St., and Arkansas, but, like Georgia, I think the week 2 matchup will either put them on track for a second straight East title or for another decent, middle-of-the-pack season.
Florida: The Gators suffered some growing pains last season as they tried to emerge from the shadow of Tim Tebow, faltering to an 8-5 record, but this season, with the addition of new head coach Will Muschamp, could see them rejuvenated down in Gainesville. They have a tough schedule, with away dates at LSU, Auburn, and South Carolina, not to mention home games with SEC West foe Alabama and in-state rival Florida St. I can see them pulling off an upset win (I’m looking at you, Bama), but not showing a great improvement in the win column this season.
Tennessee: The Volunteers struggled mightily under the tutelage of head coach Derek Dooley in 2010 and I expect more of the same this season. They are quite talented, but wins will be hard to come by in the SEC, especially when they are facing road games at Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas. Look for Tennessee to struggle again in 2011 before maybe sneaking into a lower-tier bowl.
Kentucky: Second year head coach Joker Phillips will have his hands full with this year’s Wildcat squad, which lost the majority of its notable players from last year’s 6-7 crew. Facing off against a league full of Goliaths, Kentucky may be able to muster their inner David once or twice this season, but I don’t expect them to make much of an impact. On a positive note, at least they have Vanderbilt to keep them out of the cellar.
Vanderbilt: First year head coach James Franklin has one of the most daunting tasks before him of any signal caller in the SEC: turning the Vanderbilt Commodores into a winning program. The Vandy football team have long held the title of annual patsy in the SEC, the automatic “W” on everyone’s schedule and this year will probably be no different, but it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the team.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide are only two years from their last National Championship and once again they are locked and loaded for another title run. Losing a Heisman-winning running back and adept quarterback may seem like insurmountable odds to most teams, but this is Alabama, where football runs through veins and all-American players seem to spring from the ground itself. Running back Trent Richardson is set to be the star on this year’s squad, which has the good fortune of playing Arkansas and LSU at home, but the tough task of facing the Gators in The Swamp. I think they’ll drop at least one game and, though I wish it were to my beloved Razorbacks, it seems more likely to occur against Florida.
LSU: Tiger faithful may tremble at the thought of facing #3 Oregon in their opener without starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and the National Title implications held in that game, but the team is certainly talented enough to run the table. Always-entertaining coach Les Miles is certain to make some head-scratching tactical errors along the way that may lead to a few losses, but overall I expect the Tigers to fare fine in the SEC.
Arkansas: Coach Bobby Petrino has built a powerhouse in Fayetteville over the past three years and though last year’s 10 win squad set the bar high, hopes were in place that this would be the season when the Hogs would make an honest national push. That, of course, was prior to the season-ending injury suffered by star running back Kniles Davis in the first play of the first scrimmage game of the summer. Rushing has always been secondary in Petrino’s offensive plans, though, and this year’s passing attack looks to be one of the nation’s best. The Hogs face two tough road challenges in Alabama and LSU, as well as a resurgent Texas A&M in Dallas, but I expect them to win at least one of those games. Winning two could place them in the SEC Championship and that is certainly within the realm of possibility.
Auburn: The Tigers lost a host of great players, including Cam Newton, from last year’s National Champion team, and though that could cause feeling of foreboding among the Auburn faithful, they should again make some noise this season. Head Coach Gene Chizik and Offensive Coordinator extraordinaire Gus Malzahn return to lead one of the youngest teams in the conference. The role of underdog could prove to be just what is needed in Auburn. Perhaps more than anything, I’m looking forward to watching the ingenious playcalling of Malzahn again.
Mississippi State: Last year the Bulldogs took a big step forward under coach Dan Mullen, finishing the season with a 9-4 record and a resounding win over Michigan in the Gator Bowl. Though Mississippi State is quite good and should pull off a few big wins again in 2011, the SEC is awfully strong and more than 8 wins is most likely out of reach for a team that is on the road for Auburn, Georgia, and Arkansas. On a positive note, the Bulldogs kick off their season tomorrow night against our local team, the Memphis Tigers, who last year proved themselves to be among the worst in Division 1. It should be over by halftime.
Ole Miss: Times have gotten hard in the lovely town of Oxford, where coach Houston Nutt is wringing his hands and wondering how to succeed with the players he brought in. If the Rebels improve over last season’s 4-8 mark, it won’t be by much with the exceedingly difficult Western Division teams on their schedule. Their opener against BYU this Saturday should provide enough to know whether or not the Rebs will have a shot at postseason play.
Something Rotten in West Memphis August 19, 2011Posted by Matt in news.
Tags: Alford Plea, arkansas, Eddie Vedder, justice, West Memphis 3
As you might expect, the big news today in the Memphis area is the release of the West Memphis 3 after 18 years in prison for a crime that they likely did not commit. It’s been quite interesting to read about this sudden change in the Arkansas Judicial System, which convicted these three as teenagers all those years ago, putting one of them on death row and the other two in prison for life, despite the ineptitude of the West Memphis Police Department and the lack of evidence against them.
Though I agree that it’s about time justice was finally served, I can’t help but be disappointed in the state’s actions in this matter. According to reports, they were given the opportunity to take what is called the Alford Plea, a guilty plea in criminal clourt where the defendant asserts their innoncence, but admits that evidence exists by which the prosecution could convince a judge or jury to find them guilty.
According to some I have heard talk about this (again, not confirmed), they walk free today, but this would make them unable to pursue legal action against the state of Araknsas for making them spend 18 years behind bars for a crime of which they are likely innocent. Thus, the state gets off free and clear, and they do not even have to expend any effort to find the real killers. It stinks, but I can’t say I blame the WM3 for taking the deal after spending so long behind bars.
The Moral of the Story? Listen to Eddie Vedder more often.
Let My People Go! January 3, 2011Posted by Matt in beebe, Bible.
Tags: arkansas, Biblical plagues, birds falling from the sky, dead fish in the Arkansas River, retribution theology
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Okay, now some of my Arkansas friends are going to have to answer about this: What is going on over there?
Obviously something has happened to cause this catastrophe, so by throwing in a little retribution theology, the answer seems quite clear: Biblical plagues. Like those that struck Egypt centuries ago, God has apparently become fed up with the people of the Natural State and is throwing down some divine vengeance from above.
What do you think? Does Governor Mike Beebe have someone incarcerated or enslaved and God has hardened his heart? Will the Little Red River actually live up to its name and turn to blood? What will be next? Pestilence? Frogs? Hail? Darkness? The Angel of Death?
I just hope he doesn’t take it out on the Razorbacks tomorrow night…
Birds Over Beebe January 2, 2011Posted by Matt in beebe.
Tags: arkansas, beebe, the sky is falling!
It’s not very often that my hometown, Beebe, AR, makes the news. Actually the last time I can think of our central Arkansas hamlet being spoken of was when much of it was wiped out by a tornado back in the late 90′s. So, when I saw this article posted today by Facebook friends, I was really taken aback.
According to reports, over 1,000 dead black birds fell from the sky Saturday over a 1 mile section of the town. Nobody knows why this may have happened, but the whole thing has a weird, Hitchcockian feel to it. Very strange.
Is it the apocalypse? Is it some strange new biological weapon wielded by a White County terrorist cell? Is it, as some scientists surmise, a meteorological fluke? Is it the strange experiments emanating from a certain Beebe High School science teacher?
What do you think?
Retirement May 27, 2010Posted by Matt in family.
Tags: arkansas, family, public school teacher, retirement
Tomorrow my family will be making a familiar trek halfway across the state of Arkansas to the small town I grew up in, the Dream Hometown, Beebe. There are two major reasons for our upcoming adventure: 1. It is a long holiday weekend. 2. Tomorrow marks a special occasion for a special person: my Dad is retiring.
It’s true, after serving 40 years as a public school teacher in the state of Arkansas working to instill scientific knowledge into the brains of students, he has decided that it’s time to move on.
Dad’s a great teacher – I should know since I had him 8th and 9th grade Algebra – and I know he will be missed by the Beebe school district where he has been a fixture for somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 years (Dad, you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong. I just know that you were teaching there when I was in elementary school.). He was a great influence on me (and many, many others) in continuing our education in mathematics and sciences, and it is because of the dedication of teachers like him that I am such an ardent supporter of public schools today.
But, I’m sure that he’s looking forward to being at home with my Mom and my nephew, who she keeps during the week. I know he’ll enjoy having the time to create masterpieces of woodworking in his workshop and pick his banjo on the front porch.
We love you, Dad, and we’re looking forward to seeing you this weekend!
A Few Notes on March Madness March 15, 2010Posted by Matt in basketball.
Tags: arkansas, Kentucky hatred, Mike Anderson, NCAA Tournament, upsets
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I love the NCAA Tournament, even in years when I haven’t paid close attention to the college game, I’m still an avid follower of the brackets. I guess it’s because I love the David vs. Goliath stories of big upsets by little schools. So, as you might guess, my favorite time is the first weekend, when the field of 64 is whittled down to 16 and you get the chance to see all of the schools you probably miss during the regular season. So, bring on the Big Dance, perhaps the most exciting sporting event in America. Below are a few things that struck me after seeing the teams that made the field yesterday.
I have a few upset teams that I’m eyeing so far, namely, St. Mary’s, Siena, and UTEP, but those could change between now and when I actually fill out a bracket.
I don’t have a favorite squad in this year’s tournament, given that Arkansas was a triumphant failure and Memphis was relegated to the NIT, but I do have an un-favorite: Kentucky. If there is one team and coach that I want to see lose and lose badly, it is UK and John Calipari. I mean, I will even root for Texas if they advance to the second round. It’s that bad.
It is a really sad day for Arkansas basketball when you realize that the only team in the state to make the tournament is not UA, UALR, or even Arkansas State. It’s UAPB, in the play-in game. Ouch.
I will be watching Missouri again this season and hoping, probably against all common sense, that maybe, just maybe, Arkansas can bring Mike Anderson back into the fold as head coach. Then perhaps they could even bring Nolan back as a special consultant and it’ll be like old times again…
I’m still in the process of working on my bracket, but I’ll be sure and post some picks once I have them complete. What about you? Have you filled out a bracket yet?
It’s Time for Some Football! September 1, 2009Posted by Matt in Football.
Tags: Alabama, arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Football, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, predictions, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
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The turning of the season from Summer to Fall brings with it a host of happenings – the leaves change colors, the temperatures cool, the holidays grow nearer, and, perhaps greatest of all, its time for football. There is no region of the country that reveres the game like the South, for it is here that mere men become gods and epic gridiron battle become pieces of cultural mythology passed down from generation to generation.
I’m a lifetime Arkansas Razorback fan, one who sticks with them through the good and the bad, so my attention usually remains focused on that greatest of football conferences, the SEC. Below you will find my predictions for the SEC in the coming season. Let me know what you think.
South Carolina 8-4
Ole Mis 10-2
Miss State 3-9
SEC Title Game: Florida def. Alabama
Florida – With QB Tim Tebow and all 12 starters returning on an incredible defense, the Gators look unbeatable…and they just might be. They are the favorites to repeat as national champions for a reason.
Georgia – Despite the losses of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, the Bulldogs will field another excellent squad in 2009. If they can effectively replace those two former stars and improve on defense, Georgia could make some noise this season.
South Carolina – Despite the fact that they have had one of the most highly touted coaches of the past 2 decades, the Gamecocks have not been able to raise themselves out of slightly-better-than-average mediocrity and I don’t expect that to change this season.
Vanderbilt – The Commodores came out of nowhere last season to earn their first bowl trip in more than two decades and, though they will not be an elite team by any stretch of the imagination, they should again play well enough to earn or at least come close to earning a lower-tier bowl invitation.
Tennessee – Lane Kiffin. There’s not much else to say and virtually nothing to be excited about in Knox-Vegas in 2009.
Kentucky – The Wildcats are perennial bottom-dweller in the SEC East and there is nothing that is going to change that this season.
Alabama – They may not do quite as well as last season, but make no mistake about it, the Crimson Tide are an excellent football team. Never doubt the dark powers of Nick Saban.
Ole Miss – It’s no secret that, as a longtime Arkansas fan, I have little regard for the coaching abilities of Houston Nutt. Though the Rebels have been granted one of the easiest schedules around, look for Nutt to mess it up along the way and lose a couple of games at least.
LSU – The Tigers have a good team and could definitely make some major noise this year in the SEC West, perhaps even challenging ‘Bama and Ole Miss for the division, but 8-9 wins seems much more realistic.
Arkansas – In their second season under offensive mastermind Bobby Petrino, the Hogs look to take a big step forward from last season’s underwhelming 5-7 finish. This time around the team will be led by heralded Michigan transfer Ryan Mallet and last year’s top rusher, Michael Smith. Write it down, the Hogs will be bowl game bound…even if its just the Independence Bowl.
Auburn – Head Coach Gene Chizik, along with his career 5-19 record, take the reins of the Tigers this season as Auburn attempts to revive its once-strong program. There isn’t much to cheer about player-wise and not much hope for 2009, but the hiring of offensive guru Gus Malzahn was a good move and could pay nice dividends in the future.
Mississippi State – Sorry State fans, the Bulldogs are just terrible. Again. And nothing is going to change that.
Game of the Year! October 25, 2008Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: arkansas, Football, houston nutt, Ole Miss, vindication
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Well, maybe not, but today’s contest between Ole Miss and Arkansas (both 3-4 overall and 1-3 conference) could be rather interesting. The Razorback boo-birds promise to be in full effect when Darth Nutt takes the field against the team he coached for the past ten years. While Ole Miss is more talented and definitely the favorite, I can’t help but smile at just how wonderful it would be to bask in the glow of a Hogs victory…
And for Rebel fans, enjoy the next several seasons of 7-5 and 8-4 football, with only bad fourth quarter play-calling to keep you from taking the next step forward. And then, just when it looks as though the ship may have righted itself and the next tier actually seems possible, watch in utter disbelief as the boat not only runs aground, but bursts into flames, leaving behind just a pile of ash where this edifice of your pride once stood.
I know I’ll enjoy it…
That Time Again August 28, 2008Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: arkansas, college football, Petrino, Razorbacks
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The scorching heat begins to ebb, the daylight hours shorten, and chlorophyll engages in its annual disappearance, signalling the oncoming end of another summer and the commencement of the most important of all seasons – football season. The world suddenly becomes a bit brighter with the influx of team colors and conversations become animated with bellicose boasting as everyone, regardless of logic and history, believes that this could be “the year.”
I love football, even in year like this one when the squad on which I heap my love and devotion, the Arkansas Razorbacks, will most likely struggle to win half their games. But, regardless of what the prognosticators declare with their pompous certainty, I’ll don my Razorback clothing and let out hog call in adoration. Hit that line, hit that line, Coach Petrino. If we can beat Ole Miss, the season will be a sucess.
Woo Pig Sooiee!
Hit the Road, Houston… November 16, 2007Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks, sports.
Tags: arkansas, coach, Football, Razorbacks
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According to sources, Houston Nutt will not return next year to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks. Of course, anybody who watched last week’s debacle against Tennessee knows that he already threw in the towel for this season.
So now the speculation begins…Who will be the next Razorback head coach?