Fresh off a program rejuvenating win on national TV against a top 10 Texas A&M, the Arkansas Razorbacks — and their fans, justifiably so — are basking in the glow of a story line that might make even the schmaltziest scriptwriter blush.
The Hogs’ rise under Sam Pittman is perfect fodder for the ESPN GameDay crew, which will set up in Athens on Saturday with Arkansas in town to face No. 2 Georgia. But, wait. That’s No. 8 Arkansas in town to face Georgia, in a top 10 showdown that kicks off under the bright… noonday sun of 11 a.m. CST.
The very fact the game had been been slotted for an early kick speaks to the “my mind is blown” reaction from national pundits who expected continued improvement but little else and maybe — maybe — five wins from the Hogs this year. Pittman, his staff and the players who would run through a wall for their coaches have taken the “Vandy of the SEC West” narrative and left it stranded on an Afghan runway. (For those of you not familiar with SEC Shorts on YouTube, you’re missing out. The latest installment, “Arkansas moves out of the SEC basement,” is embedded below. Like John Ridgeway bull-rushing an Aggie center, these guys are really good at what they do.)
In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of college sports, it doesn’t take long for narratives to become established. Just ask winless Florida State, whose once shiny pedigree is in need of some polish. While continued improvement under Pittman was the general expectation a month ago, not many saw this coming. Not even the biggest Kool-Aid drinkers among all of Hogdom. Not with (once again) the nation’s toughest schedule.
But the Hogs are 4-0 for the first time in a while, 1-0 in conference play for the first time in a while, and for the first time in a while, they have Georgia’s attention. Not just upset-alert attention, but this-will-be-a-hogfight attention. Prior to Pittman’s hire, it had been a while since we’d seen the FIGHTING Razorbacks. But the Arkansas Fightin’ Razorbacks have dispatched of the mighty Steers and … Aggies … of Texas, and the final scores of each game do not reflect the level of beatdown delivered.
Now, are we in for a big dose of reality between the hedges? Might be. Right now, Alabama and Georgia appear clearly to be head and shoulder pads above the rest, Bama having survived a game of the decade from the Gators in Gainesville. Hog fans absolutely should celebrate, enjoy, savor — we’ve earned the right to do so — but let’s remember how quickly things can change. I challenge anyone to come up with a roller coaster ride the likes of Arkansas football, 2012-19.
My blood-dramamine level remains above 2.0.
Things sure seem to be coalescing on the Hill, however, across all sports, and we’ll remain well ahead of schedule in the football rebuild regardless of the outcome in east Georgia. But is it still a rebuild at 4-0, No. 8 with top 15 scalps on your wall? There’s a lot of season left, of course, and as we know as well as anyone, the SEC grind can make boys of men. When we leave Oxford a week from Saturday, the Hogs will have faced four top 15 teams in the first six games. (My goodness, we’d win any other conference… )
The Pitt Boss sure seems to have grown a lot of men on our roster, though. And if KJ Jefferson can somehow lead an upset of the Dawgs, then, well, it could be Katie, bar the door.
But for now, while players and staff prep for Georgia, let’s sit back and savor the moment. Breathe it in, Arkansas. We all know Lee will don the dawg head come Saturday morning, as he should, and that’s fine. Because we’ve earned this moment, and our stock is rising. I’m good with that. For now.