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A VERY Tardy Q&A Exchange

As was mentioned in Straw Man numero tres, most of the cup contributors spent their weekend at a wedding. This, naturally, kept us away from the wonderful daytime distraction that is our blog. We not only apologize to you, but we especially apologize to our friends at The Razorback Expats, with whom we had a question and answer exchange. The questions they presented us, with our answers, are up at their blog. The questions we presented them, with their answers, are below. Enjoy and, when you get the chance, visit their blog.

1. How has the attitude of the Arkansas fanbase changed over the last season?

Quite a bit. Razorback fans were a fairly grumpy group of people last year. The team was led by a coach that, before the season began, had already worn out his welcome with a significant portion of the fanbase (and, yes, some Razorback fans were batshit crazy with Nutt hatred, but, despite what Nutt's boosters in the ESPN broadcast booth would have their audience believe, many of the causes of Nutt fatigue were legitimate). Then the team had a disappointing season, and to add to the angst, several of the losses were of the agonizing last-second variety and featured boneheaded Razorback mistakes and/or controversial coaching moves in the waning minutes. As the season came to an end, even the non-haters, by and large, agreed that a fresh start was probably best for all involved.

By contrast, this year Hog fans have a coach that they're excited about, in part because he incorporates this new-fangled play called the "forward pass" into his offense; it's really something to see. Overall, Razorback fans knew this would be a rebuilding year and even though the extent of the rebuilding needed has probably taken some by surprise, there's no real angst among the fan base at this point. That may change to a small extent if Houston Dale and crew blow the Hogs out on Saturday, of course, but the long-term outlook is optimistic.

2. Talk about Casey Dick a little bit. Does he wilt under pressure?

Casey has had an up-and-down year. He started out well, throwing for 318 yards and 323 yards in the Hogs' first two games. Granted, the opponents – Western Illinois and Louisiana Monroe – weren’t exactly Top 10 quality. Still, this is a guy who had never thrown for more than 228 yards in a single game before this year. He looked pretty bad against Alabama, Texas and Kentucky and was OK against Florida and Auburn.

He's actually made his share of clutch plays (overtime against LSU last year, for example), so we hesitate to say that he wilts under pressure and instead think the better explanation for his struggles is that he just isn't that talented of a quarterback. We will say this however: Do not - repeat, do not - underestimate the power of his ears.

3. What about Michael Smith? What is the key to stopping him?

Fortunately for the Rebels, they may not have to worry about stopping him, since he suffered a concussion against Kentucky and isn't certain to play against Ole Miss. Never say never, but if he's not ready to go, it's hard to see the Hogs even being competitive against the Rebels. He has become the heart and soul of the Hogs' offense in recent weeks. Against Kentucky, for example, he accounted for 225 of the team's 330 yards of total offense.

He's small, though, so there have been concerns all along about his durability, questions that have only grown as the team has turned to him more and more. He carried the ball 35 times in each of the Hogs' last two games: The coaches were basically begging for him to get injured and now he has.

When he returns, he may find the going a lot tougher: With no other consistent offensive weapons to contend with at this point, opposing defenses will be free to zero in on Smith.

4. How does the Razorback O-Line matchup against the Rebel D-Line?

Good question. Before the season, our offensive line was usually tapped as the strength of the team. After all, it's anchored by our one bona-fide All-American, center Jonathan Luigs, and it paved the way for McFadden/Jones/Hillis to run for about a billion yards last year. When the games actually started, though, there were some major hiccups adjusting to the new scheme (evidenced by our struggles against our less-than-worldbeating competition in the first two games).

Since then, though, things seem to have jelled nicely and now the line is doing its part...we pretty much marched up and down the field at will against the highly ranked defenses of Auburn and Kentucky (actually pushing into the end zone was a different matter, unfortunately).. The Ole Miss rushers are tough, but we think we'll hold our own there. We're more worried about Snead getting hot and carving up our defense with a big passing day.

5. Realistically, how long do you think Petrino says in Fayetteville? I certainly feel that he needs to "rebuild" his reputation a bit, so he's not going to 1-and done it like some would have you believe. To humor you, I don't see Nutt staying in Oxford longer than 5 years. I'm guessing 3 or 4.

One small benefit of having a losing season is that we probably don't have to worry about Petrino getting happy feet and being poached by some other school after this year. But, anything is possible, and there's a small part of us that's waiting for him to not return to the field after halftime of some game, having just accepted the job at the University of Washington or whatever.

We tend to agree with you that he'll most likely stay put for at least a little while to rebuild his reputation. We also are guessing that the Hogs will improve over the next couple of years, making him a more desirable hire again. If we had to place a bet on it, we'd say he'll be at Arkansas for three seasons.

6. The Rebels won at the Swamp and almost snatched one form the Tide in Bryant-Denney. Do you think the stadium atmosphere for this especially emotional game will have any effect on this team?

The atmosphere at Razorback Stadium will undoubtedly be pretty insane, and we're sure the Hogs will get some sort of emotional lift from all the drama and personal significance behind the game. However, we're also sure that Houston is going to have his players ready to run through a wall for him, so there will be a lot of intensity on both sides. After dealing with all the nonsense of the last year or two, HDN can handle whatever the fans there are going to throw at him.

We could see the first quarter of this game sort of being like the Super Bowl, where both teams are usually so keyed up they don't play particularly well and things don't get going until the emotions have settled down a bit.

7. Looking to the future and, really, just to satisfy my curiosity, how is Ryan Mallett doing? I think a lot of the SEC is nervous (but won't readily admit it) about a Petrino offense centered around Mallett.

Ryan Mallett is currently stored in an isolation chamber deep in the bowels of the U of A athletic complex, where Bobby Petrino and his team of evil masterminds are busily building him into the UltimateSuperRoboQuarterback of the Future. To give you an idea of what's going on, combine the Siberian training montage from Rocky IV with the scene in the Matrix where Keanu wakes up and says "I know kung fu."

Actually, we haven't heard much about Mallett lately, but the last thing we read was that he's progressing well. The coaches were making a point during the preseason workouts of giving him as many reps as possible without hurting the prep time of our active QBs. If all goes according to plan, he'll be ready to do some damage by the time next season rolls around.