It has been an entertaining season thus far for the Arkansas Razorbacks. There have been the highest highs and the lowest lows.
Through it all the Razorbacks have come out of one of the toughest schedules in the nation with improvement on last season and confidence that seems to grow every week.
Confidence is not only growing among the players and coaching staff, but a renewed sense of confidence and pride is spreading through the Razorback Nation as a whole. This improvement has paid dividends in the form of the Hogs going bowling this season.
Calling a bowl game now while the Hogs are 5-4 with three games remaining is not a leap of faith. If it is going out on a limb, then it might as well be like going out on a branch of a three-foot tree. Besides, what is a prediction without an element of risk?
The Hogs are going bowling, and the Hogs are much better than the record they are sporting would indicate. It has been a wild ride for the youngest team in the SEC.
The Hogs nearly knocked off the No. 1-ranked Florida Gators in the Swamp. Following that heartbreaking loss, the Razorbacks were at the center of a national outcry against SEC officials and subsequent suspensions of officials.
Ryan Mallett is on track to break the Arkansas single-season passing record in his sophomore season. He has broken a record it seems like nearly every week, and his numbers are astonishing. He is the No. 1-rated quarterback in the SEC and No. 8 overall in the country as a sophomore.
The Razorbacks are 5-1 at home this season and rank atop the SEC in offense and scoring, and those are just a few highlights for the Razorbacks.
These are all great accomplishments for the youngest team in the SEC in the midst of a complete rebuild of the program and its culture.
Bobby Petrino has a far different approach than his predecessor. Every detail is noticed, and effort is graded heavily. Focus in this system is required for it to continue to improve and put on the great show it has so far.
This team has been a little like throwing a match into a bag full of fireworks and sitting back to enjoy the show. Sometimes it may blow up in your face, but watching the Hogs light up scoreboards and progress has been more than just entertaining. It has been a true display of growth.
Piece by piece, Petrino appears to be rebuilding a Razorback football program that is going to last and be electrifying. All this is in Petrino's second season at the helm, and the Hogs are one win away from bowl eligibility. Three games remain on the regular season schedule, and the first on the list is Troy.
Troy is meeting a Razorback team gleaming with this confidence, and the Trojans appear to be outmatched. However, Troy is not a football team to be taken lightly. They are a fast and dangerous team from the Sun Belt conference that sits atop the conference with a 7-2 overall record.
Remember, this is the same Troy team that had the LSU Tigers beaten last season before they had a complete collapse and allowed LSU to squeak out a win. Troy has playmakers and a ton of weapons at the skill positions and a defensive line good enough to play for a lot of BCS conference programs.
If it sounds like Troy could pull a Trojan Horse on the Hogs this weekend...think again. I have to give them respect, but I fully expect the Razorbacks to run and pass all over Troy.
Arkansas is coming off a big must-win over the South Carolina Gamecocks and has positioned itself to make a late season run at a quality bowl. This young group of Hogs is hungry for this win and have shown growth all year from a season ago.
Dismantling Troy in game-plan and preparation is the complete focus of the players and the coaching staff so that they can get to six wins and attain bowl eligibility.
Add to that that this is the final game of the season in Razorback Stadium, which is Senior Day, and that Troy's coach guaranteed a win during the preseason just to recant that story this week, and the Hogs will be more than motivated to take down the other men of Troy.
Troy brings in the best run defense and the worst passing defense in the Sun Belt Conference. The Razorbacks have more weapons in their SEC-leading passing game with Mallett, D.J. Williams, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, etc. for the Trojans to hope to contain.
The only team Troy has faced with the type of talent that Arkansas has on the offensive side of the ball is the Florida Gators. The Gators beat Troy in a sleeper 56-6. Some Arkansas fans are taking that Gator score a little too far. Arkansas will beat Troy, but expect the game to have some competitiveness at first before Arkansas pulls away for the big win.
This Saturday, as the Razorbacks take down the Troy Trojans and become bowl eligible, there will be gains all around. There will be more confidence gained by the players and the reward of a bowl game. There will be ensured extra practice time for all the young players in the program preparing for the bowl game, and coach Petrino and staff will gain momentum on the recruiting trail.
Yes, everyone, the win over Troy this weekend will be more than just a win. The win over Troy will be a turning point for the Arkansas Razorback football program—and that, my friends, is the whole hog truth.