In the fall of 1992, Arkansas was a little over two years removed from the departure of a coach who was viewed as successful by many fans. This coach's last game as the Head Hog was a loss to a neighboring state school in the Cotton Bowl.
This coach was under fire by a large faction of Razorback fans for not winning the "big one" and having a boring offense.
Alabama was coming off of an 11-1 season with a Bowl appearance against an opponent from the western United States after a seven win season in the coach's first year.
Led by a third year coach who had been a head coach in the NFL, no matter how impressively the Crimson Tide won that season, the Tide was overshadowed in the polls by the defending national champions.
The Alabama quarterback was considered a "game manager" type of QB whose job was seemingly not to screw things up for a stifling defense.
The country was about to undergo a change in leadership with a guy named Bush handing the keys to the White House over to a previously little known forty six year old Washington "outsider".
Iraq and healthcare were hotly debated items on the national agenda.
That September, the Arkansas Razorbacks offense sputtered against the Tide's highly rated defense, scoring only a single touchdown in a 38-11 loss.
Of course, the coach in the first paragraph was Arkansas native Ken Hatfield, who like Houston Nutt left the Hogs for another school due to a lack of fan support. Nutt didn't actually coach the Hogs in the Cotton Bowl two years ago, having already left for Ole Miss, but his last season ended there with an interim coach who was formerly the defensive coordinator.
When the Hogs squared off with Alabama in 1992, the team was coached by interim head coach Joe Kines, formerly the defensive coordinator. Gene Stallings was the third year 'Bama coach who had done time as a head man in the NFL.
The Tide was coming off of a bowl win over Colorado instead of a loss to Utah. The defending national champs were from the state of Florida, only it was Miami with a Heisman winning QB, Gino Torretta instead of the Florida Gators and Tim Tebow.
Jay Barker was the heady "game manager" signal caller and I'm sure you can figure out for yourself who the politicians were then and now.
This time around, Bobby Petrino's Hogs have an offense that's light years ahead of the 1992 Arkansas crew, but against Alabama's defense, the results were quite similar with the Hogs managing only 7 points in a 35-7 loss that could have been worse had Nick Saban elected to go to the air more in the final quarter.
On the Arkansas radio broadcast, it was noted that Eli Gold, the longtime 'Bama announcer had compared the Tide defense to the 1992 outfit. Is this a valid comparison?
Such judgments should probably be made only after the end of a season or after some time has passed, but it is a not an altogether bad comparison. There aren't a lot of teams who could hold this potent Arkansas offense to only 7 points and hold Ryan Mallett to under 200 yards passing.
With all of the Hogs' weapons, Mallett and company only threatened on a couple of occasions. The Tide secondary, considered suspect by some observors, covered receivers well and passed out some licks, which no doubt was due in part to Mallett being hounded all day by a fierce pass rush.
Even when Mallett did have time, he was out of sync and the receivers dropped more passes than they have all season, but I'm sure some of that should be attributed to the defense.
The Virginia Tech offense which looked futile against Alabama just put up 31 points on Miami. All the Hokies had to show for the 'Bama game was a bloody nose and another notch in the loss column, much like the Hogs.
Looking at Alabama's schedule, the toughest games are mostly at home. At Ole Miss against a team that suddenly looks vulnerable and the Iron bowl at Auburn appear to be the biggest road tests, along with LSU in Tuscaloosa.
I'm not ready yet to put this Alabama team on par with the '92 wrecking crew, if linebacker Dont'a Hightower is out for the season that loss could hurt the Alabama cause.
However, if the Tide defense pressures Jevan Snead, Chris Todd and Jordan Jefferson anything like they did Ryan Mallett, I can't see this team losing in the regular season. Snead was on the run constantly against South Carolina, Todd is not nearly as talented as Mallett and Saban's defensive prowess should confuse the heck out of Jefferson, a sophomore.
Even though the defense might not prove to be quite as dominant as '92, in my opinion McElroy may be better than Barker and there are more weapons on offense, so this team could still possibly hoist the Sears Trophy in January.
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