Hog can’t afford hangover from Alabama loss

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said Saturday night that he and his Razorbacks aren’t into moral victories after a 42-35 loss to No. 3 Alabama.

That said the Hogs did turn some heads by giving the Crimson Tide more of a challenge than anyone outside the Razorback locker room expected in a 42-35 loss.

What was the Hogs’ reward?

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: Missouri
When: 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26
Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

Remaining schedule

Bowl game — TBD

I’m guessing a whole lot of bumps and bruises left over from the physical shootout, but also a good measure of national respect.

The Razorbacks (7-4, 4-3 SEC) barely hung onto a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 25, just ahead of Clemson. That makes the Razorbacks the lone four-loss team in the Top 25. There are three, three-loss teams with Texas A&M at No. 14, Utah at No. 16, and Wisconsin at No. 18 as the only three-loss teams in the poll. The rest of the Top 25 have just one, two or no losses on their resume.

However, all the respect the Razorbacks earned by challenging the defending national champions on their home turf will waste away if the Hogs feel either too satisfied or too downhearted after the loss.

The challenge for up-and-coming programs like Arkansas’ is to not let the challenge of playing an opponent like Alabama beat them two weeks in a row.

With the Crimson Tide in their rearview mirror, the Hogs had better be more concerned with the challenge present by the Missouri Tigers in their 2:30 p.m. contest Friday in Razorback Stadium than licking their wounds or stroking their pride over what happened last Saturday.

Razorback teams of the past and this current team have struggled dealing with the hangover of a big SEC loss.

Under former head coach Houston Nutt, the Hogs lost SEC games in pairs for the longest as his emotional squads were usually spent after their first SEC loss. His squads had trouble bouncing back quickly in the physically demanding league.

Likewise this Razorback team was rolling with a 4-0 record in September before running into the physical Georgia Bulldogs at Athens, who absolutely drubbed the Hogs, 37-0.

The following week Ole Miss survived a high-scoring showdown in Oxford against the Hogs, 52-51, when Arkansas’ late-game two-point attempt went awry.

The following week, the Razorbacks suffered perhaps their most inconsistent and worst performance of the season in an SEC game at home against Auburn, falling 38-23.

I can’t help but feel that the losses to Ole Miss and especially Auburn can be traced to the nagging injuries and concerns coming out of the Georgia loss.

The Razorbacks rebounded from that awful October start and righted their course with consecutive victories over Pine Bluff, Mississippi State, and LSU before last Saturday’s loss at ’Bama.

Though the loss to Alabama should sting, the Razorbacks can’t allow it to weigh on them too much if they want to find the overall success they have worked so hard for since beginning off-season workouts last January.

An eight- or nine-win season with the bowl game is within their grasp, but the Hogs have to shake off the loss to Alabama and focus only on Missouri during this short week of practice.

The Tigers (6-5, 3-4SEC) pulled off an overtime 24-23 overtime victory over Florida, who fired coach Dan Mullen Sunday afternoon, thanks to a Connor Bazelak 2-point conversion pass to Daniel Parker Jr.

The Tigers have beaten the Razorbacks five-consecutive seasons and six out of seven games since joining the SEC in in 2014. The Hogs only win in the series since Missouri joined the SEC was a 28-3 victory in Fayetteville in 2015.

Even with the Tigers’ recent victory over Florida, Arkansas has had the more impressive season this year, but none of that really matters. What matters is Arkansas taking care of business against the Tigers the day after Thanksgiving.

A victory over Missouri Friday would elevate the Razorbacks in the eyes of the SEC office, which makes the league’s pecking order for bowl destinations.

A victory could put the Hogs in line for the Gator (Dec. 31) at Jacksonville, Fla., Outback (Jan. 1) at Tampa, Fla. or even the Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1) at Orlando, Fla. A loss would likely relegate them to less sunny destinations of Nashville and the Music City Bowl (Dec. 30) or Houston and the Texas Bowl.

Any bowl would be nice since the Hogs haven’t reached one since 2017, but heading to Florida sure would be a fantastic reward for a group of Razorbacks who have been through the wringer in recent years.