As you who stop here regularly have probably figured out by now, this football season has been a very strange one thus far for this blog. I didn't exactly start the season raring to go, took the road trip of a lifetime in Week 2 and spent much of last Saturday on the road visiting my grandfather (doing fine, thanks for asking). In a sense, this site has been waiting for the "real" football season to begin.
Much like Alabama fans.
Our history with Arkansas since the Hawgs joined the SEC back in 1992 indicates that losses to Arkansas ... um, don't portend well for the rest of the year. In the seven seasons we opened SEC West play by losing to Arkansas, only once (1995) did we end the season with more than 7 wins (and the '95 game shouldn't count because THAT PASS BOUNCED FOR GAWDSAKE). While both teams probably have too much talent to spin out of control like that — Arkansas rebounded from last year's collapse at home vs. Bama to make the Sugar Bowl — it's still fair to say this game is one of the more meaningful ones on the schedule.
It's that way for Arkansas too, obviously. Win this one Saturday and the Hawgs are squarely in the race for the division, the conference and the national championships. Lose, and it's business as usual in Fayetteville: good, dangerous ... but not elite.
(Note: Scarbinsky makes the argument today that the game is an important one for Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino personally, since Petrino hasn't beaten Nick Saban since he came to the SEC in 2008. While I'm not certain if I buy the argument that Saban is "in Petrino's head," coaches this good are fierce competitors — hell, they're this way even at the middle school level — so it's not too much of a stretch to say Petrino takes this personally. I'll always believe Saban took the media's fawning over Urban Meyer personally after 2008, for example. Anyway, where were we?)
At the risk of violating coach Saban's "one at a time" policy, this Saturday jump-starts a daunting month for Alabama football. After this Saturday, it's at Florida (flawed, but dangerous as hell); vs. Vanderbilt (possibly the best Vandy team of my lifetime); at Ole Miss (no one enjoys playing Houston Nutt ever); vs. Tennessee (self explanatory). At the risk of sounding too much like a pessimist — though, as you know, that's kind of my move — this Alabama team, thus far, hasn't really proven anything. The defense should be dominant; the offensive line should be great; the running backs should be special; the team should be eligible to compete for a national championship. But thus far, all these are nothing but statements of "potential," and — as a football coach I covered in Georgia told me once — "potential" means "you haven't actually done anything yet."
So let's go do it. Roll Tide.