Razorbacks hoping for a bowl game?

By Ethan Nobles on 10:14 PM

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Now, don't laugh -- the struggling Arkansas Razorbacks may yet remain bowl eligible.

Yes, the Hogs have been terrible this year, but here's the deal -- if the Razorbacks win two of their next three games, the team will be bowl eligible at 6-6. Yeah, so what if the Hogs will only have a 3-4 record in the SEC if the team manages to win two of it's next three games?

The chances are good they'll go bowling and, in this state, that's often good enough. Should they make it to a bowl, then fans will love new head coach Bobby Petrino. For awhile, at least.

There's no guarantee that this team will capture those two wins, of course, but that goal is not out of reach. Remaining on the Hogs' schedule are South Carolina (6-3 overall, 3-3 in the SEC), Mississippi State (3-6, 1-4) and LSU (6-2, 3-2). The Hogs, of course, are currently 4-5 overall and 1-4 in the SEC.

Of those three games, Mississippi State and South Carolina are away games and LSU comes to Little Rock to play the Hogs on the day after Thanksgiving. Arkansas should be able to beat Mississippi State, has a shot against South Carolina and will likely struggle against LSU.

Now, there's been a lot of talk about the Hogs' victory over the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes on Saturday. After all, the team was ranked #19 in the nation, thanks to offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's hot rod offense that has propelled the team to 8 straight wins.

Here's something to keep in mind, however -- Tulsa isn't in a BCS conference. Yes, Tulsa led the country in total offense and points scored, but the team did that by beating the tar out of the likes of North Texas, Central Arkansas, Rice and New Mexico. Those teams aren't exactly powerhouses, kids.

That's not to take a thing away from Tulsa, of course. The team has done extremely well this year, but it hasn't really been tested this year. The first truly major test for Tulsa came against Arkansas, an SEC team, and the Golden Hurricanes failed.

Still, Arkansas fans have reason to be encouraged. Tulsa was favored in that game and the Hogs defied expectations. Also, they beat a team with an offense coordinated by Gus Malzahn. We're familiar here in Arkansas -- Malzahn was brought in a couple of years ago to retool the Arkansas offense and was largely shut down by former head coach Houston Nutt.

We have a lot of respect for Malzahn here in Arkansas. Beating a team with his whiz-bang offense in place is something to like, indeed.

Also, this is the first game this year in which running back Michael Smith wasn't the focus of the offense. Smith was held to a mere 67 yards rushing while much maligned quarterback Casey Dick passed for an impressive 385 yards.

Furthermore, Alex Tejada has struggled all year, but he hit for three field goals on Saturday. Maybe his slump was over (I shouldn't say that because it may just jinx him -- oh well). The special teams looked pretty good on Saturday, too, resulting in Dennis Johnson's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

The defense was still awful, sadly, allowing 528 yards in offense and missing tackles regularly. Well, they're young yet and will (hopefully) improve by next year.

At the end of the day, Arkansas won 30-23 and got one step closer to appearing in a bowl game. For now, that's good enough.

Meanwhile, here in Benton...

My beloved Benton Panthers still stink. They went to El Dorado and got stomped, 19-57. The defense is still terrible and the offense is anemic at best and completely incompetent at worst. The defense, just last week, gave up all kinds of yards and big plays this season to J.A. Fair, a team that hasn't won a game all year.

The loss to El Dorado dropped Benton to 1-5 in the 6A South and 2-7 overall. Fortunately, 3-6 Watson Chapel comes to Benton for the Panthers' final home game. Benton may win that one and my dad and I are heading out on Thursday (yes, Thursday instead of Friday this week -- not sure why) to watch that one.

Benton has a shot to win against Watson Chapel, not that it matters. There's still an outside chance for Benton to get in the playoffs because 6 of the 8 teams on the 6A South will head to the playoffs.

J.A. Fair is dead last in the conference, and Benton could move up from 7th place and enter the playoffs. I won't go through all the scenarios that would allow for that as I doubt anyone cares. Besides, the Panthers are so rotten this year that they don't deserve to go to the playoffs (don't yell at me -- the Panthers' quarterback was on television saying as much just the other day). It's been a long season for the players and they deserve the reach the merciful end of it.

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