Confident Hogs Feel An Upset Is Possible

AUBURN, Ala. — One team is in disarray after plummeting in the polls and seeing its first-year offensive coordinator get fired after only six games.

The other team has gone more than a month without winning and is in the midst of the worst three-game losing streak in school history.

Neither situation is ideal. But as unlikely as it might seem, it's Arkansas' players — not Auburn's — who appear optimistic heading into today's 4 p.m. game in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"We are not intimidated. No football team should be intimidated by another one," Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams said. "We respect (Auburn) no doubt, and we are not going to underestimate them because they have no reason to be underestimated.

"They are going to come into the game ready to play, and we want to win."

Today marks the midway point of Arkansas' regular season. And while the first five games of the Bobby Petrino Era haven't gone as planned, there appears to be a renewed sense of hope with the Razorbacks (2-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference).

After opening the season with a pair of close wins over lesser opponents, Arkansas has lost three consecutive games to No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Texas and No. 11 Florida by a combined a score of 139-31.

Arkansas' coaches and players were at least encouraged to see small signs of improvement in the first three quarters of last Saturday's 38-7 loss to Florida in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Freshman wide receiver Joe Adams had a breakout performance. The linebackers held their own for the most part. And with players showing a sense of urgency that had been missing, the Razorbacks trailed only 17-7 before giving up 21 points in the fourth quarter.

"One thing that we've really tried to do is stay positive, really emphasize the things we're doing well, emphasize the improvement that you see, emphasize little wins," Petrino said. "Even if it might not be winning the game, emphasize things that you feel like you've done better."

It might not be much, but Arkansas' players saw the baby steps they took against Florida as progress. That has given them confidence heading into this afternoon, despite being 18 1/2-point underdogs against Auburn.

"I think there is a chance we could win this game," Arkansas defensive end Adrian Davis said. "(In) the SEC, anybody can be beat any week. So we've just got to go in with the mindset that we can win this game instead of settling for a loss."

Auburn (4-2, 2-2 SEC) is the fourth consecutive ranked opponent that Arkansas will face. But unlike in the previous three games, there is a feeling that the Razorbacks have more of a chance of pulling off the upset.

The Tigers dropped seven spots in the Associated Press top 25 poll after last Saturday's 14-13 loss at No. 13 Vanderbilt. Again, Auburn's revamped offense failed to move the football and score when needed.

As a result, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville made the unconventional decision to fire offensive coordinator Tony Franklin on Wednesday, only three days after he showed support for the assistant.

"They've had coaching changes. They've had some adversity, but we've got to respond to our adversity before we respond to theirs," Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said. "That's kind of the philosophy we have to have."

Arkansas' players can also take comfort from the last time they traveled to Auburn in 2006. The Tigers were ranked No. 2 at the time and entered as the heavy favorite, but the Razorbacks dominated the line of scrimmage.

With its offensive line opening large running lanes and the defensive line applying constant pressure upfront, Arkansas cruised to a 27-10 win over Auburn.

The victory was part of a 10-game winning streak that vaulted the Razorbacks into the national championship picture. Arkansas' current players are simply hoping that a win this time could get their season turned around.

Said Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson: "There's no moral victories."

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