I say shell-shocked only because the week prior to last year's matchup, the Razorbacks hand been throttled by lowly Vanderbilt. I wondered in last year's piece, how Arkansas might recover from a shot to the ribs by Vandy and then a knock-out punch by the Trojans. I wondered if current head man Nutt would be out of a job, or if his team would mutiny. I couldn't imagine him surviving it.
Well, I was wrong. Despite posting a losing season last year, Nutt's back and this time, because the Trojans have to replace a few people on both sides of the ball, LIKE TWO HEISMAN WINNERS AND ELEVEN CURRENT NFL PLAYERS!!!, he, along with half-the-other-boobs in the nation, believe his team has a chance.
Sure, Arkansas returns more starters than anyone in Division 1 football – they are Division 1, aren't they? Sorry, they just performed so poorly against the Trojans last year that I couldn't tell.
Pete Carroll is quick to let Trojan fans know that this is NOT the Arkansas team of your last cocktail. No, this pig done got good. Carroll sites the Hawgs' defensive performance thru the remaining of the season where they held opponents to fewer than 20 points in most every game. They lost, but still, they did hold their opponents to fewer than… whatever.
Can you tell I am having a problem getting motivated for this game? Well, not really a problem being motivated for this game because it is, afterall, the beginning of College Football – my favorite time of year. I was going to pronounce that ASU's game was the beginning of college football but anyone who watched that game versus NAU would know me, then, as a liar.
So, as I sip my beer in some lovely establishment "rathole" somewhere in America, I wonder WHAT is going to be so different about this year's matchup between USC and Arkansas and last year's?
I'm stumped. Sure, the score is going to be lower than the prior 70-17 shellacking pasted on the Razorbacks by the Trojans. In fact, I'd wager it will be lower on both sides of that scoreboard. The Hawgs will not put 17 up on the 2006 version of the SC Trojans and because of this new NCAA clock rule, along with the fact that Pete still feels sorry for Houston about those last few scores by our Scout Team, he'll… he'll….he'll do whatever he can to make it look more like a game this time ‘round.
No, beyond that piece of insight, I am at a loss – zero motivation. I'd hoped drinking heavily in some godforsaken hell-hole might give me…I don't know…an edge. Screw it, I'll just go ahead and jump to the end of this story and declare USC the… "holy moly, look who just walked in! It's gal-darned, Ricky Bobby of NASCAR and really stupid but if you're in the "mood," funny movie fame!"
"Excuse me, guys…Hey, Ricky Bobby come here." Holy smokes he's coming over. "Hey Ricky, ‘Who wants to go fast?"
"I do. Hey man. Whattcha doin'? Oh shet, you're that dude from that really stupid show…ah… ‘Bitched'!"
"You mean, Punk'd. No I'm not."
"Oh, did we go to high school together, or something?"
"I wish we did…No, I'm doing an article on the up-coming Trojan football game against Arkansas and I can't come up with anything because, well hell, I think SC is going kill ‘em. I called you over ‘cause I thought you might have some ideas."
"Hell yes, I got some ideas! Woohoo!!! ‘Are you ready for some football? Some Saturday night football!?!"
"Hey you can really sing." "I really do need some help."
"Well, hell boy, let's roast this pig – Hollywood style. Man I know Arkansas. Hell, half the state's related to me. Now that I think about it, half the state's related to each other. Man, this is gonna be one big party! You gonna let me take it?"
"Take it, Ricky."
"You gonna let me take it?"
"I said take it. Just stop jumping around so much. It's cool. I mean I love SC football too. It's just I don't know if everyone in this bar feels quite the same as you and me. But by all means, take it."
"Well alright then. Ah, okay, I'm gonna tell some jokes…you know like roast ‘em. Okay, I got it. You know how humiliated Arkansas was last year after we beat the shet out of ‘em? Okay, so this year the team had T-shirts made with "Nutt Upp" written on them to kind of get them motivated and show how they were behind their coach. It wasn't until later than one of the assistant coaches noticed they misspelled Nut."
"Forgive my blank stare…I was just thinking…"
"You know ‘cause Arkansas is considered so dumb… That was lousy."
"No, keep going."
"I was going to say that Arkansas leads the nation in one thing."
"Illiteracy, but that's kind of the same joke… Man, this is hard. I love SC football but I just wanna go fast."
"I understand completely."
"Oh, I know… You know Walmart is the largest employer in Arkansas, right? Well, the Governor tried to have the SC game cancelled because he was worried with everyone at the game, who'd run all Walmarts…and then…you know the loss of tax dollars…. Man, this is hard! Can we just talk some football, you know straight-up?"
"Sure. Great. Go ahead, just let me get my pen."
"I'm gonna sit down, then. Is that our waitress?" I nod. "Sweet-thang, bring me a rootbeer and some Cheetos. We got some a football game to discuss! Wooieee, Pig Sooieee, Wooieee…or whatever. Thank you, darlin'."
"Let's do this. What's your name?"
"Tom. Ricky Bobby. Please to meet a fellow Trojan. Alright, Arkansas… Head Coach, Houston, we-have-a-problem, Nutt. Man, I was just thinking, by the time SC is done with Arkansas, this second time ‘round, Houston's coaching career is going to turn to greeter at the local Walmart… but that's kind of the same Walmart…never mind. Okay, football… Okay, this is a good one. Okay, I'm going to act serious, like if I were playing a Weather Reporter or something. Here goes: ‘The USC Trojans play a challenging schedule this season, facing six teams who went to bowls last year. Arkansas isn't one of them.'
"That's good, Ricky. That was funny. I nearly spit my beer out thru my nose."
"Yeah, and that time I wasn't even trying to be funny. Wow. Okay, I'll get serious this time. Sorry. I can see you're getting a little agitated."
"No, that's my beer buzz. This is great. If nothing else, it kills some time between now and the game."
"Okay. Sorry…um… USC has won 45 of it's last 47 games and those two losses were by 3 points each, one of those being in the Rosebowl for the National Championship. The Trojans are on a 15 game road win streak. In each of the last four years under Pete Carroll, USC has finished no lower than 4th in the AP poll. The Trojans have won two National Championships, played in a third, and delivered 3 Heismans in the last four seasons. They have, what most prognosticators consider, to be the best Wide Receiver, Linebacking and offensive lines in the nation. They are deeper at every position than in the history of the Pete Carroll era, have landed the country's top-ranked recruiting classes for three consecutive seasons and… Man, Tom, you've got something here – Arkansas doesn't stand a chance in H-E-Double-toothpicks. I mean they are fu…
"You can't say that word."
"Well, but they are."
"Okay, what do you think when you realize that Arkansas returns 20 starters from last year's team and that Coach Nutt has won 41 of the last 57 home games?"
"I'd think, Pete Carroll would be looking for work with that record and aren't those the same 20 players got treated like prison sweethearts last time ‘round. Man, where's my Cheetos? Ah, speak and the heavens open up to reveal their bounty. Thank you, darlin'. You want some?"
"Man, Cheetos and Rootbeer… sick! Makes me wanna go…"
"Fast, I know."
"No, to the can. The combo rips right thru me, but I love the feelin' Sooiee!!! What time is it?"
"Shoot Tom, I gotta go. Let's crack this Nutt, alright? Get ‘er done. As the saying goes."
"Go for it."
"Alright, it's like this. We're talking about a game between USC and Arkansas… USC and Hillbilly University. Now I can say that cause I race, hell win every race, in NASCAR and that's like Arkansas' number one spectator sport, which makes me kind of like their king. No, I am their king. My point is, this is a top ranked team versus a team that is… rank. To me, what's even more important, is how Arkansas sees this game in their mind's eye – I'm getting deep here, so stay with me. They got belly-whooped last year – humiliated all over the dang place. They're so angry this year, I bet they can't see straight. That means emotion has got the better of them. When you let emotion take over when your head needs to be at the wheel, you are fu…"
"Still can't say that word. But I like where you're going. Keep coming with it."
"Scary how I can get to this level of analysis when everyone else is doing their X's and Y's."
"Right. Anyway, Arkansas is in their heads, and they're filled with crazy emotion. They want this so badly they won't be able to just play ball. I know SC is young and I know they've lost a bunch of talent but have you seen Rey Muabooga…I know that's not his name, but have you seen him? Shoot I might start calling him the Boogie Man. Speaking of scary sumbitches, how about Brian Cushing? I was at practice the other day and I see this guy and he's like Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby as The Hulk, all at once. I mean he's got this little kid's face, all sweet and everything, and then his arms are exploding up around his eardrums or something. It freaked me out. Anyway, my point is…. SC has like two dozen of those guys running around faster and bigger than I've ever seen them. This Trojan team is loaded and while it might take a while for everything to gel, ‘cause you know how important experience is in college football… It's like trying to go fast when you're not ready and maybe there's a Pit Crew member in your way… It isn't pretty. But luckily, playing Arkansas, no matter what Pete tells us, is like running practice laps. All you gotta do is keep the car on the track till you get the feel for things, then let ‘er rip. Shoot, I really gotta go. SC wins. See ya, Tom."
"Ricky, hey, Ricky Bobby, before you go, you got a score for me?"
"SC 34 Arkansas 10. I'd like to predict a shutout but 70 thousand fans in Fayetteville make it hard for even Ricky Bobby to break the track record – course, like the Trojans I'd still come out the winner. I'll see ya, man. Oh and… from one SC alum to another, Fight On!"
Well hell, that was luck. I hope you guys don't mind a little departure from the usual pre-game. I was stuck and… well anyway, 34 to 10 sounds about right to me. So many similarities with this team and the '03 bunch. I think Ricky's right, we might be talking shutouts throughout the year like we did then. We're also going to be talking an awful lot about the star running backs that are just freshmen, and about our great receivers and the cool hand luke composure of our quarterback. We might also start mentioning the brilliance of our offensive coordinator and about a stud coach name Holt. It's all so eerily similar. I guess it's why people say great teams reload. SC is reloaded and reinforced. How far their talent takes them will depend a lot on the bounce of the ball and a whole lot more on team chemistry and leadership. Whatever happens I am thrilled that another season of Trojan football is underway.
Fight On, everybody!