Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
A Boy Named Sooie is commemorating the return of his weekly column (and exorcising his needling doubts about the upcoming season) by playing a little devil's advocate. Week one focused on the potential problems facing an offense that many believe will be one of the best in the country. Week two focused on the potential redemption of a defense that many believe will be one of the worst in the conference. And week three spits in fate's eye, casting about worst-case scenarios for every game on the 2010 schedule.
And I mean worst-case scenario. For the sake of the thought experiment, I'm living in a world where the Hogs could go completely defeated within the conference. Only one non-conference game is worthy of mention, as losses in any of the others would be fluky and inexplicable and I can't bear to take things that far. No, the most frightening thing about these prognostications is that they're based within the realm of possibility.
Georgia is the most notably "Eastern" of the SEC East teams. There is something patrician and entitled in their manner, something cold in their persistent quality. Every season they manage to convince themselves and others that they will be better than they turn out to be, and every season they fall short of those expectations — which is why, despite his sterling record as head coach, Mark Richt is always on a warming seat. That does not mean their improvement from last year is a lie. A.J. Green remains the best pure receiver in the country, and Georgia returns 10 of its offensive starters from 2010. Historically, the Bulldogs have dominated the Razorbacks, compiling a 9-3 record since the 1969 Sugar Bowl. Getting them early and on the road does not help the cause.
Worst Case Scenario: A sickeningly familiar shootout that doesn't go the Hogs' way. L 41-52
Defense wins championships, and last year it did just that. Nick Saban seems to have willed his young offense to success, but he had the advantage of fielding one of the best defenses in recent history. As should be expected from a team of that caliber, there's been a lot of turnover thanks to the NFL draft. Alabama lost eight starters on defense, most notably at its corners and line. But Saban's a coach in the most basic sense: He's a teacher. His reputation as a masterful defensive mind begins with his ability to coach skills, and primarily those of cover corners. It's likely that the Tide secondary won't miss a beat. And if anything, their down lineman will have the weight and athleticism to stop most running games. Add that to the most battle-tested offense since the 2009 Gators, and you have a team worthy of its ranking.
Worst Case Scenario: A grinding, sputtering, old-school head banger that turns on special teams play. L 14-17
Win or lose, the Hogs are gonna be licking their wounds. I can't decide if this is the worst or the best time to get the bye.
@Texas A&M (10/9/10)
The Aggies have a persecution complex to rival our own, high expectations heading into a wide-open Big 12 and an explosive offensive attack. A quality non-conference win in Dallas could give them the edge come bowl season.
Worst Case Scenario: The most exciting game you see all year, played on the gaudiest stage, culminating in a several-overtime loss. L 56-62
The team-most-likely-to-beat-Alabama is the favorite dark horse of every commentator who can't imagine rooting for Arkansas, and for good reason. Gus Malzahn has about all the tools he needs to realize the offense of his most complicated dreams. Gene Chizick returns eight starters, including five seniors, on defense. If Cam Newton is half the quarterback folks expect him to be, then we've got worries. If Michael Dyer is our undoing, then my head is going to explode.