State of the Hogs: Bet on Petrino

The time to pick the record for this Arkansas football season is drawing near. A number might come as soon as next week from this corner.

The conversation at Sunday dinner quickly turned to Arkansas football, specifically the potential for the season. The target of my question was a youngster with football in his blood. He probably will don pads regularly for quite a few more years.

I introduced him to gambling, perhaps raising the eyebrows from his dad, his coach and also my pastor.

Would the youngster care to make a wager on the coming Razorback campaign? I would establish the line, the probable win total for the UA regular season. All he had to do was say "over" or "under."

My line: 9 1/2. The youngster — after I assured there was nothing riding on the bet — made a confident and clear prediction. He said, "Under!"

That's not the way subscribers at HawgsIllustrated.com rated the Hogs' chances when I asked this week. At this writing, 63 percent think the Hogs will win at least 10 games this regular season. Right at 51 percent picked 10. There were 41 percent picking either eight or nine victories for the Hogs.

So my 9 1/2 line at dinner hit pretty much in the middle, what I wanted to do. If you are setting point spreads (for anything), the desire is to get some action on both sides.

If everyone falls on the same side, you didn't do a very good job.

I'm on the under side as the Hogs begin practice Thursday. I think nine is the right number for the regular season now. But it's not my time to put it in ink. I won't do that for another week. I want to see how things shake out when pads begin to pop. I still have questions.

I want to see how Ryan Mallett moves. I want to see if he's really ready to play after six months of rehab and two surgeries for a broken bone in his left foot. Does he move as fast as my pastor's sons when the ribs were put on the counter? (Yes, they waited for the blessing.)

Will a punt returner emerge? I think one of the newcomers is going to surprise in that category, or perhaps Jarius Wright motors past everyone in the first week of camp. He was the best in the spring.

I want to count heads and watch the battles at cornerback. Is Isaac Madison full speed? Word is there are no problems there. But depth and talent at corner seemed to be THE problem for this team most of the last decade, perhaps since the Hogs have been in the Southeastern Conference.

I think that may be over. That could be huge for this defense. If that's the case, Rudell Crim can stay at safety.

Crim is like ice cream atop the cobbler for this defense. If he gets to play in the back end of this defense, Willy Robinson's third year as defensive coordinator will be fun.

Crim didn't have an interception last year when he was the best field corner on the team. I think he makes more plays as a safety than he did as a corner. I'd put the over-under line for his interception total at 3 1/2 and then I'd take "over." But like the win total, I'm not ready to put it in ink.

I'll put everything in ink when I get a chance to see the real thing on the field. Give me until this time next week. In the meantime, I will try not to expose any more of our youth to gambling. But then again, the idea is to teach them about sure things, like Bobby Petrino.

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