Fall in Fayetteville would be decidedly unwelcome if Razorback football weren't just around the corner. Try driving within a five-mile radius of campus at any point during the day, and you're bound to end up cursing under your breath and white-knuckling your steering wheel, 15 minutes late for whatever appointment for which you were already running behind. You can't escape the thousands of undergrads lollygagging on crosswalks, cruising at turtle speed to fully enjoy the last of the short shorts, searching fruitlessly for an acceptable place to park, lost and confused, or just plain in the way. College towns would be heaven if it weren't for all the students.
At least in under a week from now, we'll all be piled into Donald W. Reynolds stadium, at last finding a common point of reference in the Venn Diagram of Arkansan existence: Razorback football. More specifically, Coach Bobby Petrino's version of Razorback football. We'll learn a lot over the next two weeks, including how many freshmen will contribute from the get-go, how many different receivers Casey Dick can hit in one game, how brittle our defense really is and what it's like to have a coach that doesn't pace the sidelines biting his nails to a nub.
One thing we won't learn is how we're going to stack up in SEC play. The Western Illinois Leathernecks can barely keep a fire lit in the Missouri Valley conference and they certainly won't be a match for Petrino's perfect storm. Louisiana-Monroe surprised Alabama last year, but that's precisely the reason they won't catch us snoozing. Besides, Saban's Tide was coming apart at the seams around the beginning of last season. Media and athletes alike were second-guessing his methods. Has anyone in Arkansas — and, more importantly, anyone actually on the team — not bought into Petrino?
Our confidence will likely be sky-high going into Texas. That's good, because it's just the kind of quality nonconference game that can spell the difference between a long holiday with the family and a bowl invite. A lot of folks, including myself, think we have a chance to win this one, but even a quality performance will be enough if we go 7-5. Sticking it to the Longhorns would be a nice appetizer going into conference play.
Most people don't seem to know that I couldn't get press credentials to save my life. The Athletic Department doesn't issue press passes to weeklies. I'm not even sure where the press box is located. So I'm happy to see the departure of the dismal Raycom and the impending implementation (also impressive and important) of pay-per-view in Razorback sports. The SEC just inked a huge contract that will give them sweeping rights to conference games over 15 years beginning in 2009. And by dangling PPV on top of that, Jeff Long has again McFlied his way into my heart with gifts from the future of sports entertainment. God knows I'm no fan of ESPN, but at least the World Wide Leader will deploy top-notch technical crews on game day. We can always mute the idiots with the microphones.
As for PPV, I'm not real sure how the ESPN deal affects our prospects. While the deal effectively kills the SEC-TV rumor that's been floating around all summer, surely every piddlin' noncon matchup won't make it onto ESPN%&# or whichever of its gabillion subsidiary networks. The biggest hurdle seems to be Pawpaw's tendency to turn down pay-per-view requests from other teams over the years. I'm just happy with the increasing likelihood that I won't have to spend too much of the season with my ear pressed to the radio speaker, trying to make sense of whatever nonsense Rick Schaeffer just spouted.