Hogs mirror Vols

Bruce Pearl was talking earlier this week about a team that's talented but young and unpredictable. Sound familiar?

No, Tennessee's head man wasn't discussing his Vols. He was analyzing an upcoming foe, Arkansas.

Like the Vols, the Razorbacks are talented enough to make spectacular plays, young enough to make idiotic plays and unpredictable enough that you never know which one is coming next. That should make for an intriguing evening when the teams collide at 8 Wednesday night in Bud Walton Arena.

"We're playing against a very young and inexperienced Arkansas team ... probably the youngest team in the league and one of the least predictable teams in the league," Pearl said, using words that apply equally well to his own squad.

At its best, Arkansas was good enough to upset Oklahoma 96-88 and stun Texas 67-61 en route to a 12-1 start this season. At its worst, though, Arkansas was bad enough to lose its first four SEC games. After splitting their two most recent games, the Hogs are 13-6 overall but 1-5 in league play.

"They have two of the best wins our league has – against Texas and Oklahoma – and they're 11-2 at home," Pearl noted. "But they've struggled some to start the league (schedule) because of that youth."

Although John Pelphrey's Razorbacks have imploded a bit since SEC play began, Pearl figures the team that beat Oklahoma and Texas could resurface at any moment.

"We're going to expect Arkansas's best," the Vol coach said. "We're going to expect a team that beat Texas and Oklahoma. We're going to see a building (Bud Walton Arena) that is probably one of the toughest places in the SEC to win."

During the 1980s and '90s a visit to Bud Walton Arena was pretty much a lost cause since the Hogs almost never fell at home. They've already dropped two SEC home games this season, however.

Tennessee can relate. Both of its SEC losses have come at home. Conversely, the Big Orange is 2-0 in conference road games. Thus, the Vols are not intimidated by the prospect of visiting Fayetteville.

"If there's ever a good time to go on the road, this is it," Pearl said. "We've seen it all at this point. I shouldn't say we've seen it ALL ... we've seen a lot. We've come through a lot. We've had enough ups and downs. We've had enough challenges. We've had to face enough adversity. We've been in enough hostile situations that at least we're prepared."

Young teams tend to struggle mightily on the road. After playing nine of its first 20 games in foreign gyms, however, Tennessee is road-tested.

"I don't think the road is going to be the deciding factor, as far as our ability to compete," Pearl said. "When you first take teams on the road, they have no idea what to expect, prepare them as you might. I think they (now) know exactly what to expect."

What they can expect Wednesday night is a team that mirrors the Vols themselves – talented, young and unpredictable.

It should be an interesting evening.

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