This time last year Casey Dick was coming into his own for the Hogs and giving Razorback fans something to feel good about.
Houston Nutt was clearly on the hot seat and the Razorback faithful were growing impatient.
Fast forward a year and Nutt looks like a viable candidate for the national coach of the year award. I have said it before and I will say it again. I have a lot of respect for Coach Nutt. No one gets more out of less than Houston does.
Arkansas rarely has what some people would call an award winning recruiting class. The Hogs keep the top in-state talent at home and seem to always find a diamond in the rough or two. Nutt just coaches them up. It is easy for those not emotionally invested in Arkansas football to see what a tremendous job Houston Nutt has done there.
The Hogs might be the most unappreciated team in the country. They have done everything that has been asked off them, but they get very little respect. Make no mistake this Arkansas team is very, very good.
The key to slowing down Arkansas is to stop the run. That task is certainly easier said than done and for MSU to have a chance they will have to find a way.
Darren McFadden is without question one of the most explosive players in the country. If you have watched Arkansas play much this season, you know it is simply a matter or time before he breaks the big one.
Despite a few grumblings from some Hog fans, starting Casey Dick down the stretch was the right thing to do. Casey adds another dimension to the offense and he certainly can make the throws necessary to keep the defense honest. Throw in the fact that Dick never lost his job, he just was physically unable to do it and it just makes sense.
The Hogs have only allowed six sacks all season, so Hog QBs have had all the time they need to make plays. MSU must find a way to harrass whichever QB lines up under center and to get him on his backside.
Mississippi State will counter with an improving passing game, now that Mike Henig is once again healthy. The State passing offense has become much more formidable with the return of Henig and the emergence of wide receivers Tony Burks and Jamayel Smith.
The biggest issue facing the Bulldog offensive is the rushing attack. Anthony Dixon came through with a heroic effort at Alabama and the Bulldogs will be counting on him to duplicate that effort this week. As Dixon matures he should develop into that blue collar back that can tote the ball between the tackles. He has shown flashes of that already.
The Bulldog defense has played better in recent weeks and had they come through with a couple of stops in weeks past the maroon and white faithful may be hoping for a bowl bid. When the defense was playing lights out, the offense was sputtering. When the offense began to show sparks, the defense had it's issues. The upset win at Tuscaloosa was one of the most complete games of the season. State must play well on both sides of the ball if they have any hopes of upsetting the Razorbacks.
I do not believe MSU has to play a perfect game in order to win, but they have to limit their mistakes and they cannot afford to get down early.
The last time Arkansas came to town, a blocked field goal returned for a Razorback touchdown was the difference. The Bulldogs got off to a fast start with two early touchdown drives, but Matt Jones worked his magic and was able to leave town with a win.
State must get out of the blocks quickly and avoid costly turnovers. There are a lot of reasons to expect MSU to give the Hogs some problems. MSU is coming off a bye week, it's senior day in Starkville and MSU is sandwiched between big games with Tennessee and LSU. The Hogs know that a win over Mississippi State makes next week's game with LSU meaningless in the race to Atlanta. Expect the Hogs to come out ready.
Arkansas 27 Mississippi State 14
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt
This time last year the Vols were gearing up for the summit of their discontent as Jay Cutler and the Commodores gave their fans some bragging rights over their in-state big brother. Once again this season, Vandy is playing for pride. All hopes of a bowl game were washed away last week in a loss to Kentucky.
Tennessee is playing well, but they have had trouble in some of the match-ups with the SEC's elite. A nine win season is possible this season, but 2007 could be the Vols' year.
Tennessee 28 Vandy 17
Western Carolina vs. Florida
Can someone tell me why we are playing this game in November? I could see in September, but in November?!? The Gators need to get up early and substitute liberally.
Florida 56 Western Carolina 3
Middle Tennessee State vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks will become bowl eligible this week with a win, but it may not be as easy as folks think.
MTSU is 7-3 with all three losses coming to BCS conference teams. The Blue Raiders have won four in a row and with a win next week over Troy, they will win the Sun Belt Conference out right.
The three losses have been ugly, but MTSU is playing much better now. It may take a quarter or two, but the talent level and difference in the strength and conditioning programs will take over.
South Carolina 31 MTSU 10
UL-Monroe vs. Kentucky
The Wildcats are 6-4 and assured of a non-losing season. They go for win number seven this week and that win could prove very valuable as so many other teams in the conference close out with just six.
Kentucky should get very little resistance from ULM and it could get ugly rather quickly.
Kentucky 42 ULM 7
Auburn vs. Alabama
Auburn got their tails whipped last week by Georgia. The loss probably cost the conference a good bit of BCS bowl revenue. I would not expect the Tigers to overlook the Tide.
For Alabama and Mike Shula, the season boils down to this week. A loss and it will be a very long off season. A Bama win would at least stave off some of the mounting criticism of the Alabama coaching staff.
The Tide will have to get the ground game going and defend the pass much better in order to win. I just think Alabama is ready for it to all be over. If Auburn gets up early it could be a rough one.
Auburn 27 Alabama 14
Ole Miss vs. LSU
Three figures are good when you are talking about QB ratings and not so good when you talk about national rankings. The Rebs have the inverse with those numbers and have struggled to put points in the board in their new offense.
LSU is scoring pretty much at will and are among the SEC leaders in several offensive categories. The Tigers will look to victimize an Ole Miss secondary that has only produced two interceptions on the season.
Last year this game became the worst case scenario for Ole Miss. If it had been a boxing match the ref would have stopped it. This year LSU should win, but they have other fish to fry. The Tigers are nearly a four touchdown favorite, but I have hard time believing that will happen. If they look ahead, it may be a little too close for comfort.
LSU 31 Ole Miss 13
Well, that's the week. Last week the Georgia Bulldogs upset the apple cart and gave us a 4-1 mark on the week. The season has been fair enough at 72-13, but we need a perfect week this week.