AutoZone Liberty Bowl Game Predictions

Guess who’s bowling this year! The Arkansas Razorbacks, duh. If you seriously had to guess, then you didn’t pay any attention to how our football season went. Honestly, overall, the season wasn’t fantastic. Yeah, we went 7-5 overall, but we were only 3-5 in SEC play. We had a couple of close losses that could’ve went the other way (ahem, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU), but that’s what usually separates the mediocre teams from the good ones. Our offense showed us that Petrino’s system is worth routing for. The defense, however, made us wonder how far we really might be to winning the SEC.

But all of that doesn’t matter right now, because tomorrow we play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Teams need six wins to become bowl-eligible. Our final count of seven was good enough for a Jan. 2 date in Memphis against the Pirates of East Carolina. While a majority of the nation is predicting a Hogs win, the game may be a little bit more evenly matched than the Arkansas faithful are comfortable with.

East Carolina is coached by a familiar name to the state of Arkansas – Holtz. It’s not the mumblin’ bumblin’ Lou Holtz of former Arkansas and Notre Dame fame. Rather, it’s his son, Skip Holtz, who actually spent a part of his formative years in Fayetteville rooting for the Hogs.

ECU comes into the game sporting a fancy 9-4 record and are semi-fresh off a nice victory over Houston in the Conference USA championship game. For those of you unawares, Houston was a very prolific passing team this year with Case Keenum at the helm. Keenum was putting up some Heisman-worthy numbers this year, and in the C-USA championship game alone, his stats read 56-75 for 527 yards, 5 TDs and 3 INTs. Yes, he attempted 75 pass attempts and completed almost 75% of them. He threw 5 TDs and Houston still lost.

ECU went up against a juggernaut offensive opponent and stopped them. With Arkansas’ proficiency in the passing game, does that worry you Hogs fans a little? Well, I think it should. But here’s something that should help calm that fear — Houston’s rushing stat line for the same game: 19 attempts for 30 yards and 0 TDs. Better yet, if you take Keenum’s runs out of the equation, you get 12 carries for 18 yards. Ugh. So ECU can game plan for a passing attack. But what about a balanced attack?

That will be the key to Arkansas’ attack (I hope). We have more than enough skill players to keep ECU off-balance. Reports have said that Ryan Mallett is extremely pumped about the game. In fact, he’s been so excited that the coaches have made efforts to get him to focus a little more on the task at hand. His head and arm will serve as the outcome for the Hogs’ offensive production. If he keeps his head and takes what the ECU defense gives him, this could be a long day for Mr. Holtz.

On the other sides of the ball, we all know about the Willy Robinson’s defense and their inability to stop the big play from time to time. And with the recent suspension of starters Matt Harris and Wendel Davis, things are looking more bleak. The good news is that ECU isn’t a very scary team offensively. As a team they averaged 367 yards and 27 points a game. Their quarterback, Patrick Pinkney, threw for 2739 yards, 14 TDs and 10 INTs. Arguably ECU’s best player is wide receiver Dwayne Harris (79 receptions, 915 yards and 6 TDs) — the MVP of the C-USA championship game and the conference’s special teams player of the year.

ECU runs a really balanced attack and their talented enough to exploit holes in the defense. The good news is that the Pirates, aside from the win over Houston, don’t have many quality wins — and the wins they have were close fought matches (which, I remind you, is the sign of a good team).

So, what’ll it be tomorrow, gang? A Hogs victory in Memphis? Or a Pirates party-crashing effort to Bobby Petrino’s first bowl game at Arkansas.

Our predictions

Jonathan says: SEC stomps the… uh, whatever conference East(or is it Eastern?) Carolina is in.
Arkansas 38, ECU 13
What will 2010 bring the Hogs? 2010 will bring the Hogs a bowl victory, an SEC championship and a Heisman winner. Count on it.

Todd says: Say something about barbeque. And blues! Or Elvis! No, no, Beale Street!
Arkansas 31, ECU 16
What will 2010 bring the Hogs? Nike. Duh.

Trip says: We are built on offense, and I think we start a little slow as our timing will be off.
Arkansas 20, ECU 19
What will 2010 bring the Hogs? I think we will be pretty freaking good in 2010. Mallet will be playing for a huge paycheck, our receivers will continue to be badass, our running back unit will still be deep and durable, and Bobby will continue to be Bobby. I wouldn’t be surprised if we come in second in the west.

Seth says: Cats + Fern Gully + Aliens + Celine Dion = Avatar
Arkansas 38, ECU 21
What will 2010 bring the Hogs? Next year should be our breakout year under Bobby Petrino. With Mallett, we contend for the SEC title and he goes for a Heisman. Without Mallett, we still contend for the West and knock on the door for a BCS bowl. If all of this is wrong and we blow more close games, Willy is out after half the season.

Dustin says: Arkansas gets the first bowl win of the Bobby Petrino era, which lasts at least one more season. At least.
Arkansas 48, ECU 17
What will 2010 bring the Hogs? What will 2010 bring for the Hogs? 2010 brings Arkansas its best season since the 10-0 start we had in 2006. The schedule lines up nicely for us next year, and we return enough players at the skill positions to make a serious run at an SEC title. Ryan Mallett, however, won’t be part of it. He’ll be backing up Jake Delholme in Carolina.

Let’s hope for a Razorback win tomorrow. Happy New Year and Go Hogs!