Bowl eligibility on the line at Oxford for Hogs, Rebels

Photo: Walt Beazley

You may have gotten a laugh when you read the headline. If so, you’re welcome. We can all use as many laughs as we can get wherever we can get them.

If you didn’t get a chuckle, bare with me. Something funny might happen in this space, even if it’s only a misspelling or grammatical mistake.

One thing that isn’t funny — Arkansas’ football season. Oh, I guess it could be called a comedy of errors, but from my standpoint, the Hogs have been the main course in a Greek tragedy, dancing like a porcine puppet dangling from the strings of destiny.

Fate, luck, karma or whatever you’d like to call it has not been kind to Razorbacks fans, the Hogs, Bret Bielema or his coaching staff. No one willingly or knowingly signed up for the type of misery left in the wake of Hurricane Bobby.

Eighteen months later, the Razorback program is still attempting to dig itself out of hole in which Bobby Petrino stranded the program, and that hole is proving to be much deeper than the ditch he drove his motorcycle into.

Petrino wasn’t just neglecting his family while he was out recruiting a young girlfriend, evidently he was neglecting Arkansas’ football program as well.

While I won’t go so far as to defend last year’s interim coaching staff, the issues that have plagued the Razorbacks on the field this season aren’t dissimilar to the ones that vexed them a year ago. Missed tackles, dropped passes, busted assignments, overall lack of speed and so on. Those cracks were there last year. We just didn’t want to recognize them because of the top-10 predictions that flirted with us in the offseason.

As for cracks, Petrino has a history of leaving them behind. Just ask Louisville fans. Petrino left their program in a mess when he exited for the Atlanta Falcons. The good news is that Charlie Strong got the Cardinals back on track — they are 7-1 — after Steve Kragthorpe initially replaced Petrino.

But, back to bowl games and the Hogs’ trip to Oxford, Miss., to take on Hugh Freeze’s Ole Miss Rebels, who happen to be 5-3 going into Saturday’s 11:20 a.m. kickoff. Yes, if the Rebels, who are a 17-point favorite, defeat the Razorbacks, they will be bowl eligible.

The Razorbacks, of course, need to win three more games to be bowl eligible, just like they did back in September when their current six-game losing streak began, and the Hogs have three games to play.

So mathematically, the Razorbacks are playing Saturday to keep their bowl chances alive. Bowl implications practically abound in this matchup.

Over the course of the season, Ole Miss has clearly proven to be the better football team, but upsets happen every week.

Yes, that is the mantra I’ve repeated week after week this fall in an attempt to build some internal excitement about this season. My other rationalization is that so little has worked out well for the Razorbacks the past two seasons that they are due for a break.

The Razorbacks did play better against Auburn. Take away the two turnovers the Hogs suffered while Brandon Allen was getting his shin stitched up, and the game might have looked a bit different than it did going into halftime. Maybe this will be the week when the Hogs stop beating themselves.

Those aren’t the most tangible arguments for an Arkansas victory on Saturday, but that’s about all I’ve got. A little bit of hope, however, is better than none at all.