Saturday, October 13, 2007

Of pig calls and barbecue pits

FAYETTEILLE, Ark. --- Not to brag, but I feel like I have the best seat in Razorback Stadium today.
I'm on the front row of the press box, far left corner as I look out. The window to my left lets me see the tailgate scene, and I have a nice view of the big, tent-dotted hill across the way.
The scene just screams college football. Add clear skies, a moderate temperature and stout breeze, and it's a perfect day to cover a game.
Because I'm in a corner, I have all kinds of office space to my left. I could actually take a nap in the floor to my left, if so inclined (or declined).
There's no one seated immediately to my right because of the staircase, so elbow space galore! The nearest writer is my friend Christa Turner from the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer. Shouts out to her family in Pleasant Valley, Alexandria and White Plains.
This Auburn-Arkansas game is a hard one to analyze. I see reasons why both teams could win it.
I see more reasons in Auburn's favor. First, I think Auburn's defensive line is the best of Tommy Tuberville's nine-year Auburn stay and will win its share of battles at the line of scrimmage. Also, I like Auburn's offense against Arkansas' defense.
Arkansas has given up a combined 83 points in its two SEC games. Auburn's offense has six drives of nine plays or more and five of 74 yards or more in the last two games. Auburn's best defense against Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones is keeping them on the bench.
On the Arkansas side, no one completely stops McFadden and Jones. Also, Arkansas has an X-factor on kickoffs. The Razorbacks, with McFadden and Jones as the deep men, average an SEC-best 26.5 yards a return. Jones averages an SEC-best 34.4 yards. Auburn ranks No. 11 in the SEC in kickoff coverage, giving up more yards per return (38.3) than Jones averages.
If Auburn's offense is successful in milking time of possession, then its kickoff team cannot let Arkansas make up time with returns near midfield or better.
A flag-stretching wind blows from the enclosed end of the stadium to the fieldhouse end. If Wes Byrum kicks off that way, he has a good chance for touchbacks. It'll be interesting to see what happens with the coin toss ... if Auburn gets the wind to its back.
Well, Auburn's team just arrived. I see Tommy Tuberville, state trooper and two sons in tow, walking across the field. Players are filing in, as well.
I see center Jason Bosley (knee) and linebacker Tray Blackmon (ankle). That means they're on the travel squad, so they must be able to play today. I also saw a player who looked to be linebacker Merrill Johnson (shoulder).
Defensive end Quentin Groves (toes) just walked in with heavy taping over his lower right leg. He's running and doing agility drills and does not appear to be hobbled. The Under Armour tank-top undershirt indicates that he intends to suit up.
No word yet on safety Aairon Savage (knee).
I hear the Kentucky-LSU game beckoning from the TV behind my head, so I think I'll check it out.
Happy football watching. Reply if you want to chat.

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