FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)—Arkansas is at it again.
At least that’s the thinking of the No. 8 Razorbacks (8-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) as they prepare to host Tennessee (4-5, 0-5) on Saturday.
Much like last season, when Arkansas won its final six games of the regular season to earn the school’s first BCS bowl berth, the Razorbacks appear to be gaining momentum in the season’s second half. They have won five straight and are nowhere ready to give up on either SEC or national championship hopes, particularly after LSU’s win over Alabama.
“It’s definitely still possible for us,” Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright said. “(Our) overall goals as a team are still right there in our hands.”
The Razorbacks are currently third in the SEC West behind the No. 1 Tigers and No. 4 Crimson Tide, and their one loss came at Alabama—making it seemingly unlikely that they could fight their way back into either championship race.
However, Arkansas was in a similar scenario last season—needing an Alabama loss late in the season and a victory over LSU—in its quest for the Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide obliged with a loss to eventual national champion Auburn, and the Razorbacks came through with a home win over the Tigers.
It’s that memory that is driving the feeling that anything is still possible at Arkansas this season.
“I think we feel the same way right now,” Razorbacks defensive end Jake Bequette said. “Our confidence is really high; we feel like we have a really strong team right now. Those last few weeks are behind us and we’re looking ahead. We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
Since Alabama holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Arkansas, the Razorbacks likely need the Crimson Tide to lose one of their final three games to have any hope of jumping them in the BCS rankings. That said, should Arkansas win its final three games and Alabama not lose again, there is a chance of a three-way tie scenario in the SEC West.
That’s because the Razorbacks still have a Nov. 25 date at Baton Rouge, La., on the schedule—which opens the possibility of a three-way tie, with each owning a 1-1 record against the other two.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is doing his best to avoid looking that far ahead, particularly when asked about possible championship hopes.
“I think everyone knows that the way that you have an opportunity to have that happen is you beat Tennessee this week,” Petrino said. “We’re a mature enough team to understand that; that’s what we’re focused on. That’s all you can focus on.”
On the flipside of that, Volunteers coach Derek Dooley is equally focused on the Razorbacks, who lead the SEC in points per game (37.7) and total yards (450.9) behind junior quarterback Tyler Wilson.
“Arkansas, we all know about them,” Dooley said. “Great quarterback, great offense, a lot of fast single-digit guys running around at receiver and the return game. A top-10 team on the road.
“I’m just really worried about us and going out there and trying to put together four quarters against a quality SEC team on the road in all three phases.”
The Razorbacks pulled away in the fourth quarter last week for a 44-28 win over No. 15 South Carolina. Despite the quality win, Arkansas dropped a spot in this week’s BCS rankings to No. 8.
Bequette said he “definitely” noticed the drop and wasn’t particularly happy about it. Still, he believes if Arkansas wins out, it will be in the middle of the SEC and national championship talk when the season ends.
“We’ve got some great opportunities on national TV to really showcase where we are as a team right now,” Bequette said. “And hopefully that will influence the voters, influence people who contribute to the BCS, whatever that is.”
AP Sports Writer Beth Ruther in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.