Picking out the “key game” for this 2019 Razorback season is trickier than it is most years.
Traditionally, the “key game” has been one that, if won, might open the door to a championship type run. Obviously, that is not in the cards for this season (barring a miracle). So - just what is the criteria for a “key game” in our current situation?
I look at it a couple of different ways; one would be - “what early season game might be a litmus test for how the rest of the season might go?”; and the second would be “what ‘swing game’ game (or, one in which we will be an underdog) must we win if we are to qualify for a Bowl?”.
In answer to the first, I’d say Colorado State. This was the game that I pointed to last year (most looked past CSU and N. Texas to Ole Miss), and it turned out to be the right call. I was concerned last year because SO much was new for that Razorback team, and any young team’s first road game is always a bigger challenge than most fans realize, regardless of the opponent. After we lost that game, I believe everybody knew we were in for a very difficult season.
This year, we get Colorado State at home and I think we will get some kind of measuring stick in comparing what I expect to be a win vs. the meltdown in Fort Collins last year. Put another way, if we DON’T beat them this year, you can forget about the second criteria (Bowl eligibility), because it will be moot.
Assuming we do get past the Rams, then I believe the true “key game” will be Mississippi State. I’d love to say it would be either A&M or Kentucky. But being as objective and honest as i can be, I just think both of those programs are (today) stronger than we are and I expect us to lose those games in Arlington and Lexington, respectively. And I HATE to type that, especially where the Aggies are concerned; they have become my #1 team to beat and will remain so until this ugly losing streak is over with.
Back to MSU; I judge them to be a little ahead of us on the rebuilding trail. However, we get them at home and this is probably our best bet to score an upset in SEC play. If we can manage to win this game, we have a puncher’s chance to beat Mizzou (in LR) and become Bowl eligible. Lose it and I just don’t see a Bowl for 2019.
I know that Clay usually likes to reserve his thoughts on this topic until later in the summer But what do the rest of you think?