State of the Hogs: Respect

Arkansas may not qualify as SEC royalty in the eyes of some in Ohio, but they will be fighting for SEC pride in the Sugar Bowl.

Does Arkansas qualify as SEC royalty in the eyes of Ohio State fans?

That's the question radio talk show host Bruce Hooley put to the Buckeye Nation on am1460's The Big Show in Columbus a few weeks ago just after the Sugar Bowl pairing was firm.

Hooley is on daily with two media members who probably do qualify as royalty in Ohio, ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Spielman.

Give credit to Spielman for taking up for the Hogs when Hooley pooh-poohed the value of an Ohio State victory over Arkansas, noting they weren't like Florida, Alabama or LSU, those SEC teams who have won national titles of late. Spielman said, no, they aren't like those, they are better.

Spielman was a part of the ESPN team that worked the Arkansas-Georgia game at the start of the year. He said the Hogs have perhaps the nation's best offense.

Still, Hooley's on-air question is the reason the Hogs are still fighting for their national reputation in the Sugar Bowl. Yes, the Hogs have made a lot of headway in the poll of public opinion with their 10-2 season.

But there is more work to be done. They still need to earn respect so that radio hosts like Hooley won't ask questions to rival fan bases like this in markets like Columbus, Ohio:

"Will a win over Arkansas satisfy your lust for SEC blood, since Arkansas is not SEC royalty?"

How do they make those types of questions go away?

Win, baby, win.

Beat Ohio State.

The Hogs need to pound it into the nation that they are here to stay.

Bobby Petrino sent that message when he agreed to a new seven-year contract with a $17 million buyout.

But winning sends that message even better.

You earn it by stacking win after win on top of each other. You beat those proud Buckeyes.

You go to the SEC title game, then back to the Sugar Bowl. You keep winning.

And you keep recruiting top classes like the one Petrino and his staff have committed right now.

I like the idea that the Hogs do more with less. I like the idea that we can hang with the big boys with a bunch of top 25 classes. But I like it more that they can jump to elite company in the recruiting rankings.

Ohio State fans take comfort in the fact that they have a team stocked with blue chip recruits. The Buckeyes could wear blue pants instead of grey. The Ohio State fans don't think Arkansas should be able to stay on the field with their team based on the recruiting rankings.

Hawgs Illustrated is part of the Scout.com national network. Our company is in this type of network to share in national content, mainly recruiting information. Scout.com employs a string of recruiting reporters that spend all of their time calling recruits, watching high school tape and grading their potential.

All of that is important if your team is courting those top prospects. It means you share in the content of the players that are being called by those so called gurus.

Arkansas fans have spent a lot of time downplaying the ability of these gurus the last dozen years because seldom do they call any of the recruits their school is courting. Consider these three points:

1, Either the gurus have ranked them wrong; 2, Arkansas coaches can't get through the doors to the right players; or, 3, Arkansas coaches are doing a better job evaluating talent than everyone else in the country.

There are always times that the last option is in play. I actually like that when it happens, but it doesn't need to be the case for an entire class.

What I see in play more often of late, the national gurus are calling the players Arkansas is recruiting. I see more stars beside Arkansas recruits and hear more reports by the likes of Allen Wallace, Scott Kennedy and other national recruiting analysts in the Scout.com system in regards to future Hogs.

Arkansas has a right to play the respect card when a radio host in Ohio talks like Hooley did earlier this month. It's fair to call up those words and say the other fan base might not respect what the Hogs have done over the last 20 years since coming to the SEC.

I doubt Hooley knows the Hogs have been to the SEC championship game three times since they entered the league in 1992. But it's also accurate for Hooley to note this is the first BCS game for the Hogs, a trip usually reserved for Florida, Alabama and LSU.

Times are changing, though. Many in the national media have picked the Hogs over the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl. And that was before any of these NCAA suspensions for the start of next season for star Ohio State players.

No, Hooley might not consider the Hogs to be SEC royalty. But they are a top 10 team with six SEC scalps. They will be there in the Superdome ready to battle for the league's honor and try to make it 0-10 for Ohio State in postseason play against SEC teams.

Thank you Bruce Hooley for reminding us what we are playing for in New Orleans. It's about respect.

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