It appears that Arkansas is heading to Memphis to face the winner of the Conference USA Championship Game between Houston and East Carolina.
Multiple sources (The Commercial Appeal, Arkansas News, Arkansas Democrat Gazette) have reported over the last 24 hours that the Razorbacks have privately accepted this invitation, and now just wait to see who they will face. It is not "official" until the SEC confirms it, but this is a done deal.
There are some obvious signs or hints, beyond the sources, that tell fans Memphis is going to be the Hogs destination.
One sign is the Liberty Bowl's Facebook page having linked up to an Arkansas highlight video. Here is the exact quote from that post, "AutoZone Liberty Bowl Official announcement regarding the teams participating in the 51st AutoZone Liberty Bowl will occur on Sunday at 4PM. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTtOqqjhQlI ."
The next "hint" is that Arkansas Liberty Bowl merchandise is already being sold. You can directly access the Razorback merchandise by going to the Liberty Bowl website and clicking merchandise on the right hand side of the web-page.
Memphis is just a short trip for the Razorbacks, but it is a perfect match-up for the Hogs for multiple reasons.
First, the game is played Jan. 2nd and so it is during the swing of big bowl games and the height of bowl viewers.This is not a late December bowl game that will get ignored or a bowl game that is on at the same time as a dozen higher profile bowl games.
In fact, this game is the only game in its time slot on that day. So the Razorbacks and whoever they face will be the complete focus of national attention. The game will be aired at 4:30pm (CST) on ESPN.
Another reason this is a perfect match-up is because the Liberty Bowl is close to the Arkansas fans and costs less than most other bowls. Click Here for more Liberty Bowl ticket information from their website. A single ticket goes for $50, and it appears all the box seats have already sold out.
The proximity and the affordability should have Memphis hopping with the Arkansas contingent.
While in Memphis, the fans can enjoy the best BBQ in all of the country from Rendezvous, Corky's, or any of the other world famous BBQ restaurants.
Hog fans can visit Graceland and possibly make some Elvis sightings, and for the Razorback fan with great music taste they can all drop into to BB Kings and enjoy some great music "in the land of the delta blues."
The Razorback fan into nightlife can enjoy all that famous Beale Street has to offer. The clubs, bars, and street-life makes Beale Street a unique place where you are guaranteed to have a great time.
As far as the actual match-ups on the field, there are some very good story lines between both teams with the Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks are very familiar with Houston from their Southwestern Conference days. The Hogs never had had a huge rivalry with Houston, but did have some memorable games. The most notable being the shootout in 1989 against Heisman winner Andre Ware.
Houston has only two losses and will be highly ranked so if the Hogs do face off with the Cougars, it will be a prime chance for the Hogs to make a statement heading into the 2010 season.
The storyline for East Carolina is a bit different as the Hogs have never played the Pirates.
However, Skip Holtz, the son of legendary former Razorback Coach Lou Holtz, is the coach of the Pirates.
This storyline will get the media a buzz and will bring back all the juicy details of how Arkansas and Lou separated ways following his time on the Hill. It would also get Dr. Lou revved up in what has become one of the most humorous segments in all of sports news. No not again Dr. Lou, for the sake of humanity.
Both of these teams are extremely talented and should make for a good game with the Razorbacks.
Houston seems to be the most desired match-up. It would pit two of the nation's highest scoring and most prolific offenses together. The match-up would almost guarantee a shootout, and one that would bring in a large audience and high interest.
Arkansas has not fared well in their Liberty Bowl history. They have lost all three games they played, losing to Georgia (1987), Auburn (1984), and Tennessee (1971).
However, Coach Bobby Petrino has a much better history in the Liberty Bowl and would look to change the Razorbacks fortunes in Memphis.
In the 2004 game Petrino's Louisville Cardinals outlasted Boise State 44-40 in what was called "an instant classic" by the bowl's Executive Director. The game was an emotional shootout, and an accurate portrayal of what may be if the Razorbacks face off against the Houston Cougars.
All these things are reasons why the Liberty Bowl will be an exciting game for the Razorbacks, and a good time for the entire Razorback Nation.
In the end what matters for Bobby Petrino and this young Arkansas team is getting the win. It will send them into the off-season with a boost, spark recruiting, and make the Hogs a dark house for the 2010 season. For a fan base that has struggled to achieve their hopes and expectations, one could say this experience could be very liberating.
Continue to visit the Arkansas Razorback Community and the Bleacher Report for the latest Liberty Bowl previews and story-lines leading up to the game.
Image Courtesy of ArkansasRazorbacks.com