Touching on a variety of football topics, here’s a fresh batch of "David’s Appetizers," assorted musings and observations on the sports scene:
WEIRD AND LUCKY
Stephen F. Austin has now completed a treasured Southland Conference "double" by defeating McNeese State and the University of Central Arkansas back to back. But the Lumberjacks are ranked below the Cowboys and the Bears in both Football Championship Subdivision polls, including the coaches poll, where SFA coach J.C. Harper is a voter.
Is the SFA coach disappointed at his colleagues?
"We were really lucky to win both games (UCA and McNeese)," Harper said during this week’s SLC teleconference. "We came out lucky both times, but we’ll take the luck. I can’t control what they (the voters and other teams) do. Sometimes I wonder if I can control what we do."
SFA and Southeastern Louisiana, generally picked in the lower part of the SLC standings in preseason, are the league’s only 2-0 teams. Texas State, McNeese State and UCA, three teams generally picked the top, are 1-1.
"The (jumbled) race is pretty much what I thought going in," McNeese State coach Matt Viator said. "I know five teams (Texas State, McNeese, UCA, Northwestern State and SFA) received first-place votes in the preseason poll, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many. Going into conference play, you look at who’s healthy and who’s confident. That changes week to week. That’s why it’s big to win. You know four other teams are gonna lose if you win."
All the officiating talk after the Arkansas-Florida game obscures a key question.
How good is Florida? Maybe how good is Arkansas?
The Razorbacks were far of short of playing a perfect game Saturday against the Gators, and it has been well-documented they didn’t get a whole lot of breaks. Yet, Florida had to kick a last-minute field goal to win.
Judging from how the Gators played Arkansas, Florida is a good team because it has a good defense and a great leader in quarterback Tim Tebow. But Florida does not have the "knock your eyeballs out clear-cut national champion look." The Gators don’t seem to have as many game-breaking skill players as in the past. Tebow is a tough guy, a leader and a good college quarterback. But he’s not quick, not fast and can’t make as many throws as the UA’s Ryan Mallett. We don’t project him as a great pro quarterback.
If Florida continues its roll, it may continue to specialize in winning ugly. To repeat as national champion, the Gators may have to rely on being good enough to win rather than compile awesome style points.
A key indicator about this Hog team will come Saturday against Ole Miss at Oxford.
On paper, right now, Arkansas should win. Week in and week out so far this season, Arkansas has shown to be the best team.
1. This has always been a rivalry where one can throw out the records, and the unexpected usually happens. It’s a pivotal SEC West game with key bowl ramifications for each team.
2. Ole Miss was overrated in preseason as a top-five team, but the Rebels are still pretty good and pretty dangerous.
3. The Rebels are strong, physical and fast on defense, probably as physical a defense as the Razorbacks have played.
4. I don’t expect Ole Miss to play a whole lot of zone defense against the Hogs, which usually gives a quarterback time to throw at the expense of getting greater coverage on receivers. I suspect Ole Miss will try to put as much pressure as possible up front and with its linebackers on Mallett and play man in the secondary. It’s more high-risk, high-reward. We’ll see how Mallett can operate under extreme pressure.
5. Ole Miss may be catching the Hogs at a good time after Auburn and Florida.
Whatever happens, this doesn’t shape up as a "form chart" type of game.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)