Smell that? It's college football. It's 2008 and with it comes enthusiasm. Bobby Petrino, exciting new talent mixed with some anxious veterans, and even a midfield logo. Fans eager to be a part of the new era have already sold out Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium for the Hogs competition against Western Illinois' Leathernecks. Extra bleachers have been installed for this game just like in games of the past, but the difference is that this isn't Alabama, Auburn, an SEC foe, or even Texas. No, it's not even close, it's a Division I FCS team.

On paper, no one expects the Missouri Valley Conference team to even compete with Arkansas. Even on one of their own message boards, one poster simply put something along the lines to the Leathernecks, "Play hard, don't get hurt, and cash the check." Others are more optimistic and you can bet that Coach Petrino isn't allowing this team to get overlooked by the enthused hosts. Western Illinois is a team to take note of with talent including three All-Americans: running back Herb Donaldson, linebacker Jason Williams, and cornerback Patrick Stoudamire.

[Note: all stat rankings are for Division I FCS (formerly Division I-AA)]

Leathernecks Head Coach Don Patterson also touts a defense returning 22 lettermen, nine starters, and six all-conference honorees on a unit that ranked in the nation’s top-25 in six categories last year. And while he is going with a young quarterback, sophomore Matt Barr (who did take over play-calling responsibilities in the first year of what was going to be a redshirt), he has a solid offense to surround him which includes 19 lettermen and 9 starters. Not bad for a team that was the nation’s 11th-best rushing team in 2007.

The Leathernecks do not appear to be a pushover by any means and will come with the heart and desire that all teams have in their arsenal at season's beginning. A team of Razorbacks with low national expectations from every form of media must do everything that they can to ensure that Western Illinois doesn't earn Appalachian State status while reviving the nation's college football fading laughs away from Michigan. In all honesty, doesn't think that the Hogs will have any trouble in accomplishing this first goal of the new season and new era.

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  1. Anonymous // August 24, 2008 at 5:38 PM  

    My son is Patrick Stoudamire Jr of Western Illinois University. We are very excited to be playing the Razorbacks. What a great tradition you have in the SEC conf. My family is from Pinebluff, AK So there will be a lot of them in attendance cheering for Razorbacks as well as My son. Were looking forward to a good game.

    Thank you for your blog, Stoudamire