In one stunning evening, one of the biggest games on the Alabama football schedule has become one of the most mysterious. There was no safer bet on the Crimson Tide schedule, one would have thought, than facing an undefeated Arkansas team. The Razorbacks opened with Jacksonville State and Louisiana-Monroe and, assumption being what it is, no one imagined an upset. One can almost visualize Nick Saban, fresh off a diatribe that specifically included Lousiana-Monroe because of its 2007 victory in Tuscaloosa, nodding his head, wryly smiling and saying, "That's why you never assume."
This week's game against Alabama was expected to be a showdown of SEC West powers. Maybe Arkansas players should have listened to Nick Saban's "lack of respect" rant a few days ago. Maybe John L. Smith, whose chances of being Arkansas' head coach beyond this season were seriously damaged with the loss, if he had a chance at all, should have listened, too. Arkansas went from the No. 8 team in The Associated Press poll prior to the Monroe game to unranked after the loss. With quarterback Tyler Wilson and other Arkansas players injured in the loss to the Warhawks and their status for the Alabama game uncertain, there are other factors that come into play for this matchup that weren't there prior to Saturdays games. Alabama, which has looked steady and confident in its first two games, was probably the favored team before Saturday. It's a big favorite now.
Even if Wilson does return against Alabama, the Razorbacks have to wonder how far their free-fall might go after becoming the first top-10 team to lose to a team from the Sun Belt. After the visit by the Crimson Tide, they host Rutgers before road games at Texas A&M and Auburn. "We have to pull together, and we all contributed to the loss. I don’t want to see any of this and this," Smith said, pointing his finger at each other. "Which is naturally what you get, because that’s an easy thing to do and that’s what losers do, they point fingers. "(We need to) wrap our arms around each other, come to work, get better and get ready for Alabama. Those guys came in here and beat us — there’s no reason for us not to get ready to beat Alabama."
After much speculation following his halftime departure from Arkansas's shocking 34-31 upset loss in overtime at the hands of UL-Monroe, senior quarterback and Heisman dark horse Tyler Wilson's injury status has been officially updated in a statement released by Razorbacks coach John L. Smith. "Tyler Wilson took a hit to the head and was kept in Little Rock last night for observation," Smith said. "His prognosis is good, and he will be day-to-day." Smith's announcement fits with early reports from outlets like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that suggested Wilson's "injury above the shoulders" -- as it was labeled by a team spokesperson -- could have been a concussion. Per the Democrat-Gazette, Wilson suffered "several big hits" during the first half of Saturday night's game.
"This is just a bump in the road," said Arkansas running back Knile Davis, who ran 16 times for only 62 yards. "How are we going to react? Just like they came in here and beat us, we can go in there and beat Alabama. It’s just all about how we prepare and how we execute." Arkansas linebacker Tank Wright was asked how tough it will be to face Alabama after such a disappointing loss. "It’s going to really fire us up, because we’re at home," he said. "It’s the only thing we can do to protect our house in Fayetteville."
Though it happened states and a time zone away, I don't think you can discount the Penn State situation has having had a role. Hear me out. What happened at Penn State put more spotlight on misbehaving coaches than there has been in a long time. It was in this climate that Jeff Long fired Petrino and set up this whole interim coach fiasco, as it appears to be, that we are witnessing. Without the sins of Sandusky and Paterno in recent headlines, might a more creative solution to the mess that Petrino made have been found? Maybe. Or granted, maybe not.
Remember when Auburn won a BCS championship with a Heisman-winning quarterback? Was that really only two years ago? The Tigers' latest post-Cam quarterback, sophomore Kiehl Frazier, has struggled mightily in two starts and tossed three interceptions Saturday against Mississippi State as Auburn fell to 0-2. Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell, on the other hand, made several spectacular throws in the 28-10 rout, finishing 20-of-29 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. In light of the disappointing starts for Arkansas and Auburn, there's reason to believe Dan Mullen's team may be the best in the SEC West not named Alabama or LSU. After sliding to 7-6 last season, the Bulldogs will look to return to their nine-win level from 2010. Gene Chizik, on the other hand, suddenly can't catch a break. Next up for the Tigers: Louisiana-Monroe.