14 Burning Questions for 2012: #5 – Arkansas

Fourteen teams and 14 questions.  We’re up to question #5 today and it relates to the Arkansas Razorbacks.

#5 – How much will the Razorbacks miss Bobby Petrino?

This may be the biggest question in the SEC this year, if not all of college football.

Bobby Petrino finally had the deck stacked in his favor this year.  Returning all star caliber quarterback?  Check.  One of the top running backs in the league?  Check.  A new defensive coordinator and renewed hope for the defense?  Check.  Your two toughest opponents at home this season?  Check.

And then Petrino threw it all away.

So how will the 2012 Hogs respond?  I think there’s two major possibilities.

First, obviously, losing their coach as they did could prove to be a rallying point for this team.  You know the deal, us versus the world.  The coaching staff remained in place and veteran John L. Smith was hired to guide the Hogs through this season.  There’s still a Petrino calling the plays, Bobby’s brother Paul.  So there’s a good chance 2012 will go just the same without Petrino as it would have with him.

On the other hand, if it was that easy everybody would be doing it.  There’s a reason Bobby Petrino was the head coach and not Paul Petrino.  There’s bound to be a difference in how the team responds with no Bobby Petrino on the sideline.

For most of the schedule, though, that difference probably won’t matter.  Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers and Tulsa.  Yawn.  Kentucky and Ole Miss?  More yawn.  Texas A&M (a), Auburn (a) and Mississippi State (a) are very winnable games, but the Hogs should be favored in each.  The Petrino “difference,” however, will be on display in the other three games: Alabama (h), South Carolina (a) and LSU (h).  With Alabama lined up third on the schedule, it won’t take long for us to see how this team responds with Smith and not Petrino at the helm.

When you take a look at what Arkansas returns this year, it underscores (again) how stupid Petrino was professionally (not to mention personally).  Of course there’s Tyler Wilson, who probably is the best quarterback in the conference.  He threw for over 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns last season.  And you’ve heard that running back Knile Davis will be returning after missing all last year with an injury.  But the Hogs also bring back their top two rushers from last season, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo.  Yes, Arkansas lost a ton of talent at wide out, but, overall, they return four players that caught at least 20 passes last season.

Defensively, the Hogs should be better under new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes who comes to Fayetteville from Ohio State.  The defensive line returns six of their top eight players from last year (according to Phil Steele), the secondary is experienced, but the linebackers may be a step behind last year’s bunch.

Bobby Petrino left behind a talented, national title hunting team.  Perhaps John L. Smith will be able to finish what Petrino started.

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Dang – Humphrey’s Son Charged in Burglary

I sure hate to hear this:

Wide receivers Maudrecus Humphrey and Marquel Wade (pictured), along with tight end Andrew Peterson, were all arrested on Saturday and charged with residential burglary. The trio was booked Saturday into the Washington County Detention Center, where Humphry and Peterson were charged with nine counts of residential burglary. Wade was charged with one count of residential burglary.

According to the police, the thefts took place over the course of a week, with 10 reports of stolen items from the Northwest Quad dormitories.

Video from the location showed the three Arkansas players going into dorm rooms and taking items such as textbooks, laptops, DVDs and cash. The cash value of the stolen items comes to $4,817.

Humphrey is the son of former Tide star Bobby Humprey.

So Arkansas Hires a Coach

You’ve probably heard already that Arkansas has hired a football coach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, no, no, not that John Smith.  This one, the one with the L.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure why he adds the L, but he does and there you have it:  John L. Smith, new interim head football coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

My not-so-instant reaction to this hire?  Meh.

Bobby Petrino put Arkansas in a ridiculously tough spot.  There was no big-name head coach with a job that would go Shula-style into this situation (well, no one but Petrino and he’s a little pre-occupied at the moment).  So Jeff Long really had no choice but to hire an interim coach.  It was also probably a wise move to hire someone outside the current staff and Smith has recent working experience with that same staff.

On paper, that makes Smith a great hire, but in reality, here’s what you get:

As for Smith’s familiarity with the Petrino way of proceeding, it’s true that Paul Petrino will get to remain offensive coordinator under this setup, and that’s probably the most sensible aspect of this larger decision. However, Smith’s knowledge of Bobby Petrino’s methods will not change this sobering reality: Arkansas will not bring a tactically sharp coach into SEC lairs this fall.

Smith does not command respect as an X-and-O man – it’s undeniable that he’s endured some rather “Zookian” moments on sidelines and some Jim Mora (senior, not junior) humiliations in press conferences over the years. What could Smith do that a non-Paul-Petrino Arkansas assistant couldn’t have done?

Another negative is that he kind of looks like a putz for bolting Weber State after only four months on the job.  That should make the next alumni reunion interesting.  And though it pays Smith $850,000, it’s a 10 month contract, so in about 10 months or so, he’ll be trolling around for another job.

Barbequed

Last evening, the University of Arkansas pulled the plug on head football coach Bobby Petrino. 

The move was somewhat of a surprise given the Hogs prospects for the coming season, but in a nationally televised press conference from Bud Walton Arena, Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long delivered a public pummeling of Petrino:

“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program,” Long said, choking up at one point as he discussed telling players that their coach was gone. “In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident.”

 

In the aftermath of the firing, the public conversation of the mess began to head into a few directions:

Who will replace Petrino?  Of all the questions staring at Hog fans, this one is at the top of the list.  Does Long stay with an interim – even for the entire 2012 season?  Does he go after another “big name” coach?  Or does he take his pick from the left over coordinators out there, you know, the ones that didn’t take or couldn’t get a head coaching gig after last season?  Regardless, the timing is is horrible.  The new coach – assuming a hire from outside – will take over without the benefit of spring practice.  When your big names are Davis, Tressel and Malzahn, that option doesn’t appear very appetizing, either.  If it was my choice, I would feel around for a legitimate big name coach, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use an interim coach through the season and then try again.

Jeff Long is a leadership ninja, no wait, he hired Petrino in the first place.  Yes, Long did hire Petrino and yes, Petrino had some marks against him.  But Petrino was a hot commodity and lots of ADs would have hired him in a heartbeat back in 2007.  Long had Petrino locked up pretty solid contract-wise, so the biggest issue related to Petrino – bolting – had been addressed.  Had he not lost control of his personal life, Petrino would still be considered one of the best coaches in college football.  Most folks didn’t think Long (or Arkansas’ brass) would fire Petrino, especially considering how special 2012 was lining up to be.  So it did indeed take some guts to pull this trigger.

Petrino had character issues from the start, so why is anyone surprised?  Sure, now everyone will now act like this was inevitable.  But who’s guess contained a motorcycle crash?  Personally, I’m very surprised this happened and how it came to light is stunning.  As I mentioned above, Petrino’s previous character issues had been contractually addressed – they related to him leaving.  His last contract ensured he wasn’t going anywhere for a long time.

Petrino will never, or should never coach again.  Oh, please.  America loves a good redemption story and hopefully Petrino will genuinely be changed by this experience.  Petrino may soon hit the legal circuit to argue the terms of his dismissal, but at some point he needs to schedule some soul-searching time.  As horrible as this is professionally, the people that hire coaches know the story.  Yes, he lied and could have violated university policy related to hiring, but from a coaching stand point it could be worse.  He could have the dark cloud of the NCAA following him around.

As someone who has messed up quite a bit in life, my heart breaks for both Petrino and his family.  It’s easy to make jokes and talk about what a bad dude his is, but I also know that except for God’s grace, I could be going through a similar situation.  I truly do hope that Petrino and his family can recover from this.  If he’s interested in preserving his marriage, they for sure have a lot of dark days ahead.

This story does remind me of the grace the Lord has shown to me, but it also reminds me to check my priorities.  It sounds absolutely foolish for a grown man to parade around on a motorcycle – without a helmet, and with a 25 year old woman on the back.  What are the things I’m doing that are either as foolish or that could possibly lead to something as absurd?  I pray that the Lord will show them to me before I make a mess of things.

Knile Davis Returns for Arkansas

Knile Davis being lost for the season was a big blow to the Razorbacks.

If he returns at 100%, he’ll be a difference-maker in 2012:

Arkansas running back Knile Davis was eligible to declare for the 2012 NFL Draft, but after suffering a season-ending ankle injury on Aug. 11 has decided to return to school and plans on finishing his Razorback career on the field.

“I have made the decision to return to the University of Arkansas for the 2012 season as I am determined to help this program accomplish the goals we have set in place,” Davis said in a prepared statement released by the school. “My injury was unfortunate, but I feel I have worked extremely hard for the opportunity to lead the Razorbacks on the field. Through my setback last season, I remained positive and was committed to persevering and I plan to apply those principles to this year’s team.”

BCS Scenarios

This past weekend was one of the most exciting in college football history.  Was it BCS chaos?  Not really.  I just call it high intensity palate cleansing.

If chaos is your pleasure, the next two weekends could deliver a heaping dose for you.  Let’s take a look at some scenarios involving the four top-ranked schools in the BSC standings: LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Oklahoma State.  Of course, LSU hosts Arkansas on Friday, Alabama visits Auburn and Oklahoma State has a week off before playing hosting in-state rival Oklahoma on Dec. 3.  The SEC championship game is also Dec. 3.

LSU beats Arkansas and beats Georgia.  Alabama beats Auburn.  Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma.  This is the easiest scenario to map out. The Tigers would head to Atlanta to play Georgia and with a win there, the Tigers and Bama would meet in a rematch in New Orleans.  Oklahoma State would finish on the outside looking in at No. 3 in the BCS standings.  The wrench in this scenario is if Alabama lays a stink bomb in beating Auburn while the Cowboys destroy Oklahoma.  In that case, it’s not entirely outside the realm of the possible for the Pokes to jump Bama.

LSU beats Arkansas and loses to Georgia.  Alabama beats Auburn.  Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma.  This scenario may cause full-on chaos.  Alabama would most likely punch a ticket to New Orleans, but would LSU get a mulligan because losing to Georgia was their first loss?  It would depend on how the game plays out, but most likely so.  It would also depend on how soundly Alabama beats Auburn and how soundly OSU beats Oklahoma.  Again, if Bama lays an egg and the Cowboys destroy OU, the Pokes could get the nod.

Arkansas beats LSU.  Alabama beats Auburn.  Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma.  This scenario = chaos.  This one gets a little complicated:

  • If the Hogs win by a slim margin and the Tide wins without a problem at Auburn, the Tide would most likely go to Atlanta to play the Dawgs via being higher ranked in the BCS standings.  [See edit below.]
  • If the Hogs roll and Bama struggles at Auburn, the Hogs could jump to No. 1 in the standings and head to Atlanta instead of Bama.  [See edit below.]
  • Obviously, if LSU beats Georgia they are in the championship game, but that is also the case for Alabama or Arkansas.  For either of those to play in Atlanta, they would be ranked No. 1 in the BCS and however they beat the Dawgs would get them to New Orleans.
  • But here’s the tricky part.  What if Bama wins in unimpressively against Auburn and is jumped by the Hogs?  How far would LSU fall?  It’s possible if the Tigers lose a close game to Arkansas that the Tide could win against Auburn, but fall to No. 3 in the standings and be left out.
  • Then Bama would need Georgia to beat Arkansas to ensure a rematch vs. LSU.
  • It’s also possible that Oklahoma State to enter this mix if they beat Oklahoma impressively.

Like I said, this scenario = chaos.

[Edit: According to the SEC’s tiebreaker rules, Alabama would most likely go to Atlanta under this scenario.  Assuming an Arkansas win, Alabama would most likely be no lower than 2nd in the standings and would trump Arkansas via the tiebreaker.  If Arkansas won and ascended to first, but LSU fell to 2nd and Bama remained at 3rd, then the Tide would be left out of Atlanta and would have to hope Georgia beats the Hogs.]

Arkansas beats LSU and Georgia.  Alabama loses to Auburn.  Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma.  Compared to the previous scenario, this one is relatively easy to digest.  Arkansas would be in the title game.  Depending on how close the loss was to the Hogs, LSU could possibly stop at No. 2 and see the Razorbacks in New Orleans.  If LSU’s loss to Arkansas was close, I don’t think it would matter how badly Oklahoma State beat the Sooners.

Arkansas beats LSU and loses to Georgia.  Alabama loses to Auburn.  Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma.  This one is pretty easy:  LSU vs. Oklahoma State in New Orleans.

Arkansas beats LSU and loses to Georgia.  Alabama loses to Auburn.  Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma.  Another case of chaos.  If the loss to Arkansas was close, LSU would play in New Orleans.  Who would they play?  Well, the next one-loss teams would be No. 5 Virginia Tech, No. 6 Stanford and No. 7 Boise State.  The highest ranked of those three would be the Tigers’ date.  Again, chaos.

The best thing Alabama can do is to beat Auburn in impressive fashion.  That doesn’t guarantee a trip to Atlanta or New Orleans, but it’s they only thing the Tide has control over.  The next best thing is for LSU to win.  Then, regardless of what happens in Atlanta, the Tide can start packing for New Orleans.

What have I missed here?  Let me know what you think.

Roll Tide!

Thanks, Cyclones

Following the Bama loss to LSU earlier this month, we needed the dominoes to fall just right in order to get back in the title chase.  A week ago, Oregon knocked off Stanford and last night the Iowa State Cyclones helped the cause with a thrilling 37-31 upset win over Oklahoma State in double overtime.  The Cyclones fought back from a 17 point deficit to shock the Pokes.

Those may be the only two dominoes we need to fall.  After this weekend, Bama will most likely be back at No. 2 in the BCS rankings.  A Southern Cal win over Oregon today wouldn’t hurt, though.

Pundits and fans act like these types of upsets can’t happen, but they do most every year.  To me, that also makes the win last week against Mississippi State even more impressive for the Tide.  The Tide was the double digit favorite, but coming off of an emotional overtime loss that, at the time, dashed their biggest goal of the season.  And playing the Bulldogs at home at night when you’re one of their biggest rivals is not easy.

So the prize is back in sight, though the road to it may be a little curvy.  Of course, Georgia Southern needs to be beaten, and it wouldn’t hurt to do it soundly.

Then there’s Auburn.  After what happened in Ames last night, it’s not a given that we pound Auburn into the sidewalk.  But we now have a little more motivation (as if last year wasn’t enough) to take care of business in a big way.  And Auburn has a little more motivation to spoil our special season.

I still think LSU will lose to Arkansas, but right now that’s probably not in our best interest.  The Tigers need to dispatch Ole Miss, Arkansas and then make it to Atlanta to play Georgia in the title game.  And it’s probably to our benefit if they beat the Bulldogs.  LSU going to Atlanta removes a major hurdle for us – i.e. having to beat a good Georgia team – but also makes us a bit more vulnerable in the BCS rankings.  If UGA beats LSU soundly, it would no doubt undermine our position, but we would still probably make the title game.

On the other hand, if LSU loses to the Hogs, we go to Atlanta and we control our own destiny.  If we beat the Bulldogs, we would be in the title game, but our opponent would come out of chaos.  The opponent would probably be Oregon, assuming they don’t lose again, but could also very well be LSU.  Arkansas, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State could also have a shot, depending on how strong they close out the season.

Anyway, the trip is back on track.  Let’s just worry about the next step and take care of the Eagles today.

Roll Tide!