A Fail-Safe Prediction On Arkansas-Florida

FAYETTEVILLE--Here's a little secret about sportswriters. Many of us are very competitive, and we like to be right about the stuff we cover. That's especially true when it comes to football predictions.

For entertainment, I like to listen to our sportswriters who pick games weekly for the Morning News, trading badinage and reviewing the ruins after each week's results come in. Some go to great lengths in both their pregame research and postgame ardor for scores. It's all in good fun, of course. The trick is to disguise the cutthroat component of the competition. I offer today's column, free of charge, to anyone in Las Vegas who might be looking for an edge in getting a handle on this Saturday's Arkansas-Florida game. Perusing some back issues of Hawgs Illustrated on Saturday, I realized that on the 10 occasions when publisher Clay Henry asked me to predict the next week's Arkansas football game, I picked all 10 correctly. It just goes to show that dumb luck counts for something. Even a blind Hog finds an acorn every now and then. The winning margins were not necessarily prescient, but at least I got the winning team, as follows: Prediction: Southern California 28, Arkansas 24. Result: USC 50, UA 14. Prediction: Arkansas 42, Utah State 7. Result: UA 20, Utah State 3. Prediction: Arkansas 17, Vanderbilt 14. Result: UA 21, Vandy 19. Predicition: Arkansas 24, Alabama 20; Result: UA 24, Alabama 23. Prediction: Arkansas 45, Southeast Missouri State 3. Result: UA 63, SEMO 7. Prediction: Arkansas 28, Ole Miss 17. Result: UA 38, Ole Miss 3. Prediction: Arkansas 45, Louisiana-Monroe 3. Result: UA 44, ULM 10. Prediction: Arkansas 28, Tennessee 24. Result: UA 31, UT 14. Prediction: Arkansas 27, Mississippi State 14. Result: UA 28, MSU 14. Prediction: LSU 28, Arkansas 17. Result: LSU 31, UA 26. Before the weeks in which Arkansas beat Auburn 27-10 and beat South Carolina 26-20, I got away without making a prediction. How are the other predictors doing, you ask? Well, guest picker Chuck Barrett and Henry missed on USC-Arkansas. Ryan Malashock missed on Arkansas-Vanderbilt. Alex Abrams missed on Alabama-Arkansas. Harry King, former News sportswriter Ryan Aber, Dudley E. Dawson, Vernon Tarver, Abrams and Henry missed on Arkansas-Auburn. King missed on Arkansas-South Carolina, and joined Abrams in missing on Tennessee-Arkansas. Abrams, Henry, Dawson and Jerry L. Reed missed on LSU-Arkansas. Best I can tell, that's three misses each for King, Abrams and Henry; two for Dawson; and one each for Aber, Barrett, Tarver, Malashock and Reed. So, as steam escapes those estimable men's ears, it's left to me to guide Vegas on Arkansas-Florida. Shortly after Arkansas struggled to quell Mississippi State, I thought the beaten-up Razorbacks might be done winning for the season. But they seemed rejuvenated against LSU, as they competed hard to the end. Florida is a bit of a mystery, with its succession of close wins. Florida State icon Bobby Bowden calls the Gators "doggone good," even though Florida field goal kicker Chris Hetland devolved to 3-of-12 for the season with misses againnst FSU of 38 and 35 yards that left him 0-of-8 lately. Arkansas' Jeremy Davis is 6-of-11 on field goals, 40 of 42 on extra points. One of the Orange Bowl scouts at the LSU-Arkansas game told me he thought Florida had the best defense in the SEC at the time of the LSU-Florida game on Oct. 7. The Gators beat LSU 23-10. LSU has since won six in a row, as Arkansas knows all too well. Florida coach Urban Myer has shamelessly coopted Arkansas' Wildcat formation, springing freshman Percy Harvin for a 41-yard touchdown run on a direct snap against Florida State. But the Gators shouldn't have had to struggle so much to beat FSU 21-14. Therefore, despite the fact that Florida will have a crowd advantage in the Georgia Dome, I see it as Arkansas 24, Florida 23. Against my better judgment. GRANT HALL IS A MORNING NEWS SPORTS WRITER. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH MONDAY AND THURSDAY. E-MAIL: GHALL@NWAONLINE.NET

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