USC Not Your Usual Home Opener

This is the 52nd consecutive college football season in which I will have attended University of Arkansas games in Fayetteville.

But it's only the 17th time during that span that the Razorbacks' opener will have been played in Fayetteville. And it's the first time that a home opener in Fayetteville has featured an opponent like No. 6 Southern California.

Previously, the opponents have been Tulsa, Hardin-Simmons, The Citadel, SMU, Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe), Louisiana-Layafette, Boise State, New Mexico State and Missouri State.

I still remember the 1955 opener, in which Arkansas defeated Tulsa 21-6. Henry Moore and Preston Carpenter were the UA captains that year. Moore was a pile-driving fullback, and Carpenter was a versatile halfback who would go on to a pro career with the Cleveland Browns.

Every now and then, Tulsa would upset the Hogs. Once was in 1958, Frank Broyles' first year as Arkansas' coach. The Razorbacks had lost their opener to Baylor in Little Rock, 12-0, generating almost no offense — the first of six straight losses.

Tulsa had a senior halfback named Ronnie Morris, who had starred at Fayetteville High and whose family had lived in the same house on Mt. Sequoyah which my family moved into in 1954.

Morris scored three touchdowns for the Golden Hurricane in that 1958 game, which Tulsa won 27-14.

Arkansas took revenge in the 1959 opener, beating Tulsa 28-0 to launch a 9-2 season which included a share of the Southwest Conference title and a Gator Bowl victory over Georgia Tech.

Tulsa was also the foil for UA opening wins in 1981 (14-10), 1982 (38-0), 1983 (17-14), 1989 (26-7) and 1990 (28-3).

Arkansas' success in Fayetteville openers came to a screeching halt in 1992, its first year of Southeastern Conference football competition, when Division I-AA school The Citadel upset the Hogs 10-3, resulting in the firing the next day of UA head coach Jack Crowe.

A Citadel lineman returned a fumble for a touchdown as Arkansas fans sat in stunned, angry silence.

The next UA home opener in Fayetteville resulted in another ignominious loss, this time by 23-10 to SMU in 1996. That was the second of three straight losses to SMU (in 1995-1997), which helped hasten the end of the Danny Ford tenure as Arkansas' coach.

Under coach Houston Nutt, Arkansas has won all five of its Fayetteville season-openers: 38-17 over Louisiana-Lafayette in 1998, 41-14 over Boise State in 2002, 45-13 over Tulsa in 2003, 63-13 over New Mexico State in 2004 and 49-17 over Missouri State in 2005.

Southern California won't be mistaken for any of those teams.

The Trojans have gone 37-2 the past three seasons, with two national championships. Had coach Pete Carroll ordered a punt on fourth-and-2 from midfield late in the national title game against Texas last season, USC might have three-peated. Instead, Texas took over with great field position and quarterback Vince Young flummoxed the Trojans one more time.

So both Arkansas and USC go into Saturday night's game on one-game losing "streaks."

Will the Trojans pause and reload, or will they continue to dominate college football? Will their freshman tailbacks ease into things, or will they make like Reggie Bush and LenDale White? Will USC quarterbacks John David Booty and Mark Sanchez pick up where Matt Leinart left off, or can Arkansas' defense shake them?

On the other side, will Arkansas' key players on offense be healthy enough to perform? Can Robert Johnson find true happiness at quarterback? Will the Hogs ever break a punt return, or make a long field goal? Will Mitch Mustain play?

And finally, how loud will the fans in Reynolds Razorback Stadium be when Arkansas runs through the ‘A'?

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