So, what do I think about the upcoming Arkansas-‘Bama barn-burner? Well, it’s 50-50.
No, seriously. That will be the score at the end of regulation: 50-50.
Say what you will about Bobby Petrino. That he changes helmets more often than a hermit crab on a growth spurt. That he flirts better than Betty Boop and does clandestine meetings as well as James Bond. (OK, I know, I know. Both Auburn and Louisville fans will tell us this: maybe not quite as well as James Bond.) That his observations about reporter fashion helped turn “Gork” into a verb.
Yes, you can say all of those things about Petrino. And as Arkansas fans will tell us — I myself said all of those things just a few weeks ago.
But give the man this: He can flat-out coach offensive football.
And to be fair, there are lots of other college coaches always on the lookout for the next big move (or, barring that, at least the next big contract extension). There are other guys who know how to play the game. Who have moved on, well, let’s just say, suddenly. Like, just for example, the guy standing on the opposite sideline this week. Nick (I’m Not Going to be the Alabama coach) Saban.
So let’s move on.
Petrino’s got something going here. He’s got something going because he usually does, as long as his quarterback isn’t incarcerated. And more so, not just because his QB is not in the big house — but because he is one Ryan Mallett of Texarkana, Tex.
Have you seen this kid play? Did you see what the Razorbacks did last week?
This is going to be one of those games that reverberate through November. I think it’s a shootout because Arkansas can’t stop Alabama, but nobody can stop Mallett.
I could be wrong, spectacularly. But I think this is where someone finally sticks it to the national champs. Well, you know. As much as something like 38-35 could be considered sticking it.
This is where Mallett launches it. Where he launches about 40 passes to launch a legitimate Heisman campaign.
“We are going to be aggressive on offense this year,” Petrino said last Saturday, in the wake of a last-minute 31-24 win over Georgia, capped by a Mallett touchdown pass.
“We are going to go after it,” Petrino said.
Of course they are. Did you see Louisville last decade? Now he has Mallett, who seems tailor-made for the role of Petrino’s quarterback. The guy grew up in Razorbacks country, went to Michigan, then ended up getting caught in the Lloyd Carr/Rich Rodriguez turnover. He landed in Petrino’s lap. All 6 feet, 6 inches, 238 pounds, 5 stars of him.
He comes from Texarkana, a town known for giving us Ross Perot and Scott Joplin, but which always will have a warm spot in my heart thanks to its role in “Smokey and the Bandit.” (A movie so good it can almost make you forgive Sally Field for her later work in “Brothers and Sisters.” Almost.)
“Wonder what they do around her for fun?”
“Probably sit around and watch the cars rust.”
Well, now they’ve got something else.
They should call Mallett “The Bandit.” In fact, I am going to start calling him that.
Now here come the national champions, in what might be the biggest game at Fayetteville since President Nixon showed up. The atmosphere for this one is going to be off the charts, one of those college football Saturdays that we savor. I don’t know the actual term for it, but in Hawaii we called it “chicken skin.” You’ll be able to feel it through the TV screen.
Alabama has everything. Its defense is ridiculous. The Tide can see, run and hit. Now they have last year’s Heisman winner back again, too. Good grief.
And Saban. Say what you will about him — I have, and probably will again. But the man knows how to put together teams. This one might be as good as any of them.
But I’ve got a feeling. I think it’s a shootout because Arkansas can’t stop Alabama, but nobody can stop Mallett. This is going to be one of those games. This one will stick with us. This one will have a Moment.
This is where he launches it. Again, and again, and again, and again.