Drew Morgan’s Arkansas teammates have had 816 hours to grasp the wide receiver’s 24-hour rule.
After the regular season ended, Morgan admitted that it is not always easy to follow his guideline “that no matter what happens, you have to forget it and move on to the next game,” adding that the period after the 28-24 loss to Missouri “was the longest 24 hours of my life.”
Like many, he was not sure what happened in Columbia.
If the Razorbacks are still in a funk over leading by 17 and losing, they will not fare well against Virginia Tech this afternoon in Charlotte, N.C.
Sometimes, in bowl games lesser than the College Football Playoff semifinals and the New Year’s Six games, only one of the teams is excited about the contest. As much as the Missouri loss could affect Arkansas’ attitude, the Hokies lost two of their last four — by 10 to Georgia Tech and by seven to No. 3 Clemson in the ACC championship game despite suffering two interceptions.
Attitudes being equal, Tech deserves to be favored by a touchdown.
For Arkansas, the recipe for victory is mostly about the quarterbacks and the guys up front:
—The offensive line must give Austin Allen time to make use of Morgan, tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, and other receivers and enable a running game.
—The defensive line must contain and harass Jerod Evans, who has thrown 389 passes and carried the ball 182 times, 46 more than any Virginia Tech running back.
Arkansas’ offense will be hard pressed to move the ball against long-time coordinator Bud Foster and dual-threat quarterbacks have had great success against the Razorbacks. Incorporating the 3-4 defense might help, but, Tech is well aware of speculation about Arkansas using the alignment and should be prepared.
VIRGINIA TECH 27, ARKANSAS 21
The Razorbacks are one of six SEC West teams in bowl games and, while LSU vs. Louisville might be the most entertaining, Alabama against Washington on Saturday afternoon is the only contest of real significance.
Conventional wisdom says Washington’s best chance to upset Alabama is to somehow slow the Crimson Tide’s offense. Personally, the thinking is the Huskies have a better chance to outscore Alabama than to stifle an offense that appears to have no shortcomings with playmakers galore and quarterback Jalen Hurts, who can run and throw.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning is one dimensional, but his 42 touchdown passes vs. seven interceptions is about as good as it gets and a perfect throw will succeed against any coverage. If the Huskies can protect Browning, Washington is likely to be in the game entering the fourth quarter.
ALABAMA 35, WASHINGTON 24
For some of us, watching Clemson-Ohio State is a reason to stay awake into the New Year’s Eve night.
For younger football fans, the Fiesta is the must-see of the 41 bowls. After all, both teams survived a slew of close calls, lost only once, and have quarterbacks with a deserved reputation as winners. Ohio State defeated Wisconsin by seven and Northwestern, Michigan State, and Michigan by four or less. Clemson beat Virginia Tech and North Carolina State by seven each and Auburn, Troy, Louisville, and Florida State by six or less.
Some might see those scores as an indication that the Buckeyes and Tigers are vulnerable; from here, the spin is that both teams know how to win while in the crosshairs and that a small helping of good fortune never hurts.
With NFL-bound junior Deshaun Watson, Clemson is 26-2 the last two years.
With senior J.T. Barrett, Ohio State was 11-1 in both 2014 and 2016. He started off and on in 2015.
Watson’s career passing numbers are a magnet — 9,484 yards and 86 TDs — but the key is how many times he keeps the ball. Watson had five carries in the loss to Pittsburgh, but 10 or more in five close victories.
CLEMSON 31, OHIO STATE 28
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org