We're still waiting for the imminent approach of kickoff to transform Will from a rational being acknowledging realities about other rebuilding programs into the raging Idiot Optimist who believes in his heart of hearts that the Vols will win every game. In the meantime, I'm going to have to fill the gap. Arkansas may well be the Vols second-most difficult game of the upcoming season, but here are three reasons we should beat them.
1. Recruiting. Permit me to just lift this from the magazine:
If there is a distinction to be found between the Razorbacks' and Vols' respective upward trends, it's in recruiting. Arkansas generally lands recruiting classes ranked in the lower 20s, and this has held true for the past four classes. This year's class ranked 25th, and the three classes prior to that ranked 29th, 27th, and 34th, according to Rivals. They rank 25th in this publication's four-year rolling recruiting rankings. For the sake of comparison, Tennessee's last four classes ranked fifth, fifth, 21st, and 17th, and their rolling ranking is 11th.
So there's a distinct advantage in talent, and it's over the entire roster, not just in one or two recent classes. No, talent isn't everything, but it matters. A lot. And in an otherwise even game, it can be the difference.
2. Radar. Will's not the only one giving due props to the feral pigs. Arkansas followed up the Game of 17s -- when the Hogs broke a 17-game SEC losing streak with a 17-0 win over #17 LSU -- with a blowout, shutout win over #8 Ole Miss and a clobbering of Texas in the Texas Bowl. By doing so, they earned national attention for themselves. They're like the Vols of the SEC West, and the extra attention means they're not sneaking up on anyone. Sure, it's a bit of a trap for the Vols, with Tennessee playing at Florida the prior week and versus Georgia the following week, but the Hogs have their own trap sandwich to chew on: They host Texas A&M the week before and travel to Alabama the week after. When is a trap not a trap? When both teams are caught in it.
3. Home Sweet Home. This one's at Neyland. If Neyland has lost any of its luster over the past several years, it's only because luster sits next to hope, and this year, hope has finally renewed its season tickets. Fans should still be feeling good about this team when Arkansas comes to town. Bowling Green and Western Carolina should be wins, and Oklahoma and Florida are winnable. If Tennessee gets those latter two, and if Arkansas comes in undefeated as well, this game should get some serious national attention. Alabama-Georgia likely gets the visit from ESPN College Gameday that week, but Tennessee-Arkansas may be the opening act, and if everyone's engaged and hopped up under the national spotlight, expect Neyland to be rocking.
So I'm thinking that more talent, plus an engaged team and crowd should be enough to put the Vols in front when the clock hits all zeroes. What do y'all think?