Everyone knows how important an Arkansas win over Auburn on Saturday could be to the Razorbacks’ season and a possible second straight bowl berth.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema made it clear on Wednesday’s SEC Football Coaches Teleconference the Tigers are the only thing his team is focused on at the moment.
“I said it and I meant it, it’s really hard for a football team to do what the public does (look ahead),” Bielema said. “You guys want to jump to the end and talk about where it is ad what it is. But as soon as you get a team starts doing that - skip a step along the way is what costs them.
“I think our players have learned that little bit last year and, of course, this year. I think maybe some people started thinking about things before they were actually in front of them and we were not where we wanted to be at the end of the game six going into our bye week.
“So it’s been very apparent that our guys are locked into nothing but Auburn. That’s all they talked about and that’s all they want.
“It may not be the right answer to what you want but that’s what they have got to do. I understand the question. I totally get it. But until you are on the inside of a program, especially in the SEC West, that’s the only way you can survive.”
Bielema and his team know very clearly it will take six wins to get to a bowl game and that they might have to win this game in the rain ion Saturday.
“You only have six more guaranteed ones left,” Bielema said. “Obviously we know the magic number is six to get to a bowl game and all that stuff. But the part we have sold to our players in the bye week to get to where we want to be.
“We had to have a great practice on (last) Thursday, they did it. We have to have a good practice on Sunday, they attacked it as good as I have ever seen. So I think they have bought into the one game mentality.
“Saturday is to come and at the end of the day we are going to win or lose. I just want to make sure we did everything we possibly could to have our guys in position to have success on Saturday.
“That’s my responsibility. Their responsibility is to execute what we are asking them to do. We make a big reference around here that it’s one game at a time one play at a time. That’s going to make a difference and hopefully that comes out.”
Arkansas (2-4, 1-2) and Auburn (4-2, 1-2) are set to kickoff at 11 a.m.
One of the things we tell our kids is to control the controllables,” Bielema said. “You embrace whatever the situation is we have played well on rainy days. Going back last year to LSU and Ole Miss, both those games there was a little bit of that.
“The Tennessee game was supposed to be a monsoon. It wasn’t but it did rain a little bit. Last year we didn’t win the game but against Alabama, but it was a wet first half. It’s not something our kids are afraid of. The early kickoff with that is definitely something our kids are excited about and get the opportunity.”
Bielema said his team has kept its head up during the 2-4 start.
“It’s actually pretty easy,” Bielema said, “I even began to see it last year the way things unfolded. These kids have been playing their tails off. We are a 2-4 football team.
“But I said this the last day to our media. The four teams we have lost to have an unbelievable record ad have lost only to some really good teams. It’s not like they are getting their tail kicked into oblivion. They have played competitive games. They have been right there, swinging every way possible.
“They are hearing a lot of good things from people they respect about the way they are playing. You turn on the game film and you watch it and you see how competitive they are and they are not about to quit. They are only more excited.
“We probably had our two best back to back practices on Sunday and on Tuesday. They showed the excitement and energy of getting the opportunity to go out and play the way they want to play. They have gotten better every week and that is the result of what we are trying to do today.”
The Razorbacks are coming off a bye week.
“We took advantage of a bye week, got some guys healthy and we are excited about that for a change,” Bielema said. “We should have a running back Kody Walker, who has got a lot of good football left, back and in the fold this week as well as a couple of other guys that were able to rest up and get back to full strength.
“We also got an early jump on Auburn. We will go into our preparation today and we have for the first time this year an 11 o’clock kickoff on Saturday and prepared our guys for that as well.”
The Arkansas-Auburn game starts the second half of the regular season for both programs.
“I’m excited to jump into the last half of our season with 12 guaranteed games to see where we go from there,” Bielema said. “Six of them are behind us and we have talked about the six that are in front of us and taking them one day at a time and one game at a time.
“That is the only way I know to get where we want to be. “
Auburn is led by head coach Gus Malzahn – a former Arkansas player, former Shiloh Christian and Springdale High School coach and former Razorback assistant coach.
Malzahn and his 2005 state championship team will be honored at the Fort Smith Northside-Springdale game Friday night in Springdale.
“Auburn is a good football team and is somebody that has had a lot of success with Coach Malzahn and everything he brings to the table. They bring a lot of the same things we have seen in the past, but offensively this year have brought a few more wrinkles.
“Of course, defensively, the change that they had with coordinators has brought a new scheme so our guys have been engaged and excited about the opportunity that Saturday brings us.”