It should come as no surprise to anyone that, when talking about the SEC, the West is king of the mountain. And when talking about the SEC West, all roads to the divisional championship go through Tuscaloosa. Any notion of Alabama having a down year was laid to rest when the Crimson Tide made short work of USC in the season opener. The final nail in that down year coffin was smacked when Alabama came from behind to put Ole Miss in its place.
Alabama is a team that none of us really need to watch on any given Saturday. As long as Nick Saban is on the sideline, we should all expect the team to win.
Still, there is plenty to play for if your team is in the SEC West and this weekend is an opportunity for the “best of the rest” to create separation from the also-rans. Arkansas versus Texas A&M is a week four matchup that will begin creating that separation.
I’m a fan of Bret Bielema and therefore am also a fan of Arkansas. As I’ve written about in past articles, Bielema has the confidence, charisma and swagger that make a football fan believe in not only him, but also his Razorback team. And unlike a coach like, say, Jim Harbaugh, Bielema doesn’t carry his swag in a way that portrays arrogance.
Prior to the season kicking off, Arkansas was my pick for SEC darkhorse and I have no reason to eat crow as the Razorbacks prepare to play the Aggies. Arkansas defeated Louisiana Tech in the season opener, 21-20. In holding a typically potent Tech offense to 20 points, the Razorbacks showed us all that the defense was capable of standing up to a high powered offense. Arkansas followed this win up with a thrilling 41-38 overtime win against TCU. In scoring 41 points, Bielema’s offense proved that it could keep pace with a full throttle Power 5.
And here is what should scare the rest of the SEC going into conference play – Arkansas can grind it out and win or the team can win in a shoot out. Don’t look now, but here come the Hogs.
The SEC game that everyone will be fixated upon this weekend will be Florida versus Tennessee. While the rest of you are watching that SEC East classic, i’ll be focused on this Arkansas versus Texas A&M game. You know, a game that will actually mean something in the big picture of college football.
Whichever team wins this game will be in the driver’s seat to give Alabama a run for its money and I expect the winner of this game to be Arkansas. if the Razorbacks do, in fact, win the game this Saturday, it will set up one of the biggest games in Bielema’s career when Alabama visits Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on October 8.
Like I said, it would be difficult for me to pick against a Nick Saban coached Alabama team, but Arkansas was my darkhorse pick and I continue to stand by that. it’s for that reason that i’d give Arkansas a chance against Alabama, Especially with that game being in Fayetteville.
Woo pig sooie! The preface to Arkansas’ season starts against Texas A&M.
E-mail Seth at seth [dot] merenbloom [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom