No. 6 Arkansas ripe with confidence following win

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 13, 2011
A six-game winning streak can do a lot for a team's confidence. Just ask No. 6 Arkansas, which continued to climb up the rankings with a 49-7 win over Tennessee on Saturday night. Dismissed as a Southeastern Conference contender after a crushing 38-14 loss at Alabama on Sept. 24, the Razorbacks are now still very alive in the conference championship picture. And as the dominoes continue to fall ahead of them - as Boise State and Stanford did this weekend - the Hogs' national championship aspirations gain momentum. ''I feel like we can play with anybody,'' Razorbacks wide receiver Joe Adams said. Arkansas (9-1, 5-1 SEC) will have the chance to test Adams' belief, and just how far it's come since the loss to the Crimson Tide, when it travels to face No. 1 LSU on Nov. 25. The Razorbacks still have one test remaining before that, against Mississippi State next weekend in Little Rock, Ark., a test similar to the one they passed with flying colors against the reeling Volunteers (4-6, 0-6). Adams electrified the Razorback Stadium with his third punt return for a touchdown of the season, a 60-yarder through, around and through again the heart of Tennessee's special teams. The highlight was one of many for Arkansas, which has now won a school-best seven straight against the SEC East. Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino said the win was the team's most complete of the season, and it followed a 44-28 home win over No. 14 South Carolina a week earlier. Arkansas finished 5-0 in Fayetteville this season, including a convincing 38-14 win over Auburn. Despite the confidence, Petrino wasn't getting ahead of himself when asked if he felt like the Razorbacks could beat anyone at the moment. ''Well, you don't worry about things like that,'' Petrino said. ''You just worry about playing good football and beating the team you're playing that week. ''But I do feel like we're playing real well.'' The Volunteers, meanwhile, are missing more than just quarterback Tyler Bray at the moment. They're also missing a serious dose of Arkansas' confidence. Freshman Justin Worley started his third straight game for Tennessee against the Razorbacks, while Bray continues to heal from a broken thumb. Worley was 15 of 29 passing for 208 yards, but he threw a critical interception on third-and-goal near the end of the first half and was eventually replaced by Matt Sims in the second half. Bray appeared to throw the ball well in pregame warmups, but Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said the sophomore couldn't play until more testing showed the break had completely healed. ''If it's not healing, he can't play,'' Dooley said. ''I don't care how good he throws.'' The Volunteers are now 0-6 in the SEC for the first time in school history, and they must win their final two games - against Vanderbilt and Kentucky - to become bowl eligible. ''I feel pressure every week, you know,'' Dooley said. ''It's not any additional pressure. We're going to be defined by how we play the next two weeks. If we play like crap, we'll go down as a bad football team. If we play good, then we'll go down as a team that fought until the end and pulled it out. ''It's not really complex.'' What is complex is trying to determine who must win and who must lose for Arkansas to have a chance at playing for either the SEC or national championships. Alabama still owns the earlier win over the Razorbacks and is ahead of them in the BCS rankings, but the Razorbacks would get a boost with a win over LSU - a team Petrino has defeated two of three times at Arkansas. Should the Razorbacks, Tigers and Crimson Tide win out - with the exception of an Arkansas win over LSU in the regular-season finale - the result would be a three-way tie and the team with the highest BCS ranking representing the SEC West in Atlanta. What is for certain is the Razorbacks believe they have a chance and believe they are closing in on their preseason goals of SEC and national titles. ''We've grown a lot,'' Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright said. ''(Our) leadership (has) especially matured a lot. The young guys, they bought into the system. They found out how we work and how we work around here and what we do around here. They've been great, and it's just been a great year.''
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