What is “good enough” for Arkansas football?
Most people realize and understand the Razorbacks program isn’t one that is likely ever to compete for national championships in football in a year-over-year basis. Is it enough to sniff the top 10? Is a dogfight for a College Football Playoff spot in the final weeks something that needs to occur every several years? Is finishing with eight wins consistently enough?
I’m grappling with that question as I’m regularly asked by my neighbors to the west, my fellow Oklahomans, what’s going on with the Razorbacks? They’re used to a certain standards over there, most of them, with the Sooners. Arkansas, the team, isn’t Oklahoma, the team, so they have a hard time understanding what is acceptable in Fayetteville and what isn’t.
And as I was asked by more than one person such a question on Monday, I realized I don’t actually have an answer.
The goal posts seem to continually be moving forward or backward. Perhaps that’s part of being the only team in the state that matters (sorry, Arkansas State, I know you’re doing big things over in the Sun Belt, but 90 percent of the Natural State are Razorbacks). Arkansas has a fan base that rushed the field — deservedly, in my estimation — when a 17-game SEC losing streak was snapped. It’s a fan base that talked about firing its coach — undeservedly — in the midst of an 11-4 stretch in conference play.
That isn’t to say the fan base is wrong. This isn’t a Clay Travis column. It’s just an observation. Passion is the hallmark of Arkansas Razorbacks fanatics. Passion can lead to glory or it can lead astray. Sometimes, at varying times, it’s done both.
Doesn’t make the question any easier to answer, though. Matters aren’t helped by a semi-regular tease from local media, suggesting a nine-win season should be the minimum this year. Nor is the assertion Arkansas not only should win its final three games this year, but absolutely will. Such proclamations set so high a bar, it’s completely understandable the fan base will react in frustration when those things don’t happen. Plus, it’s the SEC, the best conference in college football for more than a decade now. Depending on the outcome of a particular game, that can be good or bad.
Good: When Arkansas wins, it’s: “The best conference in college football and the Hogs just beat (Team X)!”
Bad: When Arkansas loses, it’s: “This is the SEC, every game is a dogfight. Can’t expect to win them all.”
At some point playing in the SEC, with all its greatness, cannot be used as an excuse. Like college football players on particular teams whose brass chose crappy opponents years in advance, it’s not their fault they’re playing Little Sisters of the Poor. You can only play the teams put in front of you. You either beat them or you don’t.
Maybe that could be why the goals seem to change every year with Arkansas. This year, to me, I think just one more win qualifies as a good season. A 7-5 record isn’t what was hoped for by most, probably, but it’s a mark of competence for a roster that even the head Hog himself, Bret Bielema, still has more than a few holes.
What Bielema has done with this crew isn’t quite on miracle level, but it isn’t exactly far off, either. Bowl eligible after Game 9 in the vaunted SEC is impressive. It’ll be even more so if the Razorbacks do happen to win out.
Of course, then the expectations for 2017 will change yet again.
It’s over! Hopefully
Today is Election Day, a day for most that couldn’t get here fast enough. Now, I’m not about to even try to sway you one way or the other. That’s your call, but please, do vote.
No, instead, I’m going “stick to sports.”
Sort of like Monday, I’m curious to see who you’d elect when it comes to Razorbacks and Tigers, of the LSU variety. There are four questions on this ballot. Much like I suggest at your polling place, answer with your head, not your heart. Have fun. This is supposed to be silly on purpose.
My vote: Van Horn
My vote: Miracle on Markham
And the last one. Somewhat real.
My vote: An 8 or 9.
The kneel heard around the state
Arkansas women’s basketball coach Jimmy Dykes addressed the public for the first time since his team’s exhibition game Thursday night, a game in which six players went to a knee in protest during the national anthem.
He didn’t say the women wouldn’t do it again. He also didn’t say they would. Mostly, Dykes went to bat for them again, something that has to be hard to do in the face of such public backlash and, honestly, given his own personal beliefs.
But Dykes did it because he’s a coach, mentor, father figure, and most of all, a decent human being. He has his players’ backs whether they stand, kneel, sit or what. That is what’s most important. Dykes is providing a positive role model by listening and understanding, something he said he probably wouldn’t have done months ago.
“I’m not sure I really wanted to listen,” when the conversation of protests first began, Dykes said. “Now, I can’t listen enough to our young ladies.”
Jimmy Dykes clarifies his stance on the national anthem, but won't say whether the protest will continue this week https://t.co/3T5ug0mNGN
— Matt Jones (@MattJonesADG) November 7, 2016
That’s all it takes. Listening. Try a different point of view, have empathy and an interest in learning. We all know you, whoever you may be, don’t like it. Try listening and supporting.
Go watch Dykes and the team Friday morning at 10:30 at Bud Walton Arena as the Razorbacks open their season against Sam Houston State.
- Bielema went more in-depth on the defensive changes he made Saturday and why exactly they were made, per our Jason Kersey.
- Also from Jason: Bielema likes LSU coach Ed Orgeron. Even though the two just met, they found a bond.
- Arkansas may not be ranked in the major polls, but Pro Football Focus — whom I write about a lot and highly recommend — has Arkansas inside its top 25. It takes a deeper look at college football.
- Arkansas and Mississippi State will play in primetime on one of the Worldwide Leader’s networks, it was announced Monday. Kickoff next week is at 6 p.m. (local time) on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
- The Razorbacks will apparently get a player named Bumper Pool soon on their football team, from our Trent Shadid. Related: Arkansas immediately has the best-named player in college football.
- For the first time in school history, Arkansas soccer will host an NCAA Tournament game. The Razorbacks will play Memphis in the first round of the 64-team tournament on Friday at 6:30 p.m. If they win, they’ll get, most likely, No. 3-seed Clemson.
- Men’s’ basketball player Moses Kingsley was listed on the preseason watch list for the Lute Olson Award on Monday. The award is given to the best Division I player in the country who has played at least two seasons. Arkansas opens its season Friday night against Fort Wayne.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
Boy, howdy, y’all, we got us a stoplight!
Over in Huntsville, the next town over from mine to the east, had its first stoplight installed recently, but by golly, some folks just ain’t for that. One person wrote the stoplight takes away the small-town feel.
My hometown is smaller than Huntsville, so I’m going to go ahead and have a little fun at its expense. Other than this small, insignificant issue, I think Huntsville is a pretty cool little town.