Arkansas eyes first BCS bowl game
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - It might seem hard to hope for a BCS bowl berth after being on the wrong end of a 65-43 score.
Yet No. 14 Arkansas is daring to dream. That shootout loss to Auburn on Oct. 16 seems a distant memory after a dominating win at South Carolina last week. Combined with Alabama's loss to LSU, the Razorbacks' BCS bowl hopes remain alive - and Auburn could hold the key.
Before all that, Arkansas (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) needs to win its final three regular season games, beginning with a nonconference game at home against UTEP on Saturday.
The Razorbacks' 41-20 win over South Carolina was their third straight. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino called it the team's most complete game of the season, with quarterback Ryan Mallett throwing for 303 yards and Knile Davis rushing for 110 yards and three touchdowns.
In addition to helping the Razorbacks keep pace in the difficult SEC Western Division, which is 13-2 against the East this season, the win also opened a number of postseason doors.
With games remaining against West foes Mississippi State and LSU, Arkansas has the chance to finish second behind division-leading Auburn - if the Tigers beat Alabama on Nov. 26.
"That's what I was so happy about the other night was the way we went out and played, the way we went out and basically dominated the game," Petrino said. "It gave us an opportunity to really still have something at stake."
Should both Arkansas and Auburn win out, with the Tigers reaching the BCS title game, that would likely leave the Razorbacks the second-highest ranked SEC team and in position to earn an at-large BCS berth. Two SEC teams have reached BCS games in each of the past four seasons, during which the conference has won four straight national championships.
"The possibility is out there, I'm not going to sit here and say it's not," Arkansas senior tight end D.J. Williams said. "If we take care of our business and win out, then we'll see what happens there. But we don't need to worry about what other teams
have to do to make our success better."
Williams isn't the only Arkansas player to acknowledge the small opening in the BCS door. Senior offensive tackle Ray Dominguez said the talk will serve as motivation the rest of the season.
"We've never been to a BCS Bowl, and the fact that's out there has got everybody really wired in," Dominguez said.
Even Petrino, who rarely discusses speculation or matters other than the week at hand, admitted the players were aware of the BCS talk.
"There's no way you can keep them not aware of it with the way the world is today," Petrino said. "They understand there's opportunities out there. It's up to us to go take advantage of it.
Petrino said he had no concerns about Arkansas looking past UPTEP (6-4, 3-4 Conference USA) or any of its final opponents. He mentioned the Razorbacks' focus in practice as a reason why.
"We'll prepare for this game," Petrino said. "This is the biggest thing to us. You also have to be realistic and understand they know something's out there."