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Keep Your Enemies Closer: Arkansas

Among other things, we discuss Arkansas' coaching situation, terrible defense and morning games at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Thanks to Trent Wooldridge of Arkansas Expats for answering my questions. If you'd like to see my answers to Trent's questions, head on over here.

Even after the Bobby Petrino debacle and hiring of John L. Smith, which I thought was awfully questionable, Arkansas entered this season as a top 10 team. Did Hog fans have any inkling that the wheels were about to come off, or did everyone still believe that Arkansas could be a contender?

I don't think anyone saw a collapse of the caliber we're now experiencing as any kind of a possibility. With that said, though, I have never seen a fan base with expectations as varied as what we saw from Hog fans before this season. A knowledgeable, level headed non-homer Razorback fan could have predicted anywhere from 7-5 to 12-0 before the season and I would not have batted an eye. I had them at 10-2, and I feel so foolish now for being snookered. This is not a 10-2 team with Bobby Petrino, much less John L. Smith.

What's the general mood in Fayetteville? Do fans agree with the decision to fire Petrino? Or have they decided that they could live with his shenanigans now that the team is 1-4?

Things are very polarized. Everyone is angry, but not necessarily at the same person. Some people are still furious with Petrino, and lay all of the blame at his feet. Some are angry at Petrino for his mistakes, but also angry with Long for his decision to fire such a successful coach. Some are fine with Long's decision to fire Petrino, but furious with his hiring of John L. Smith. And, of course, pretty much everyone is pissed with John L. right now. Give any comment string or message board thread long enough, and it will settle into this debate sooner or later. Usually sooner. And usually it's heated.

Who would be your dream hire as the next head coach? Who will Arkansas actually hire?

MY dream hire would be Chris Petersen. I believe he most closely resembles Bobby Petrino in coaching philosophy, hopefully without any of Petrino's baggage. A dynamic, offensive-minded head coach with an obsession for preparation and a knack for calling plays. Like Petrino, Petersen puts players in the NFL despite modestly ranked recruiting classes. If I were Jeff Long, I would go after Chris Petersen, even if it means changing the game once again with coaching salaries. Everyone was angry with Alabama for doing it, but after two national championships, I doubt they care much.

Now ... who will Arkansas actually hire? I don't think anyone has any idea whatsoever. Jeff Long is masterful at managing leaks coming out of the Broyles Center, and with months to obsess over it, people are just throwing stuff at the wall at this point. The major sports radio station here in Little Rock initially kept a count of each name mentioned as a possible candidate, but eventually stopped once the list reached 150 names. 150! Who will Arkansas actually hire. Gun to my head? Art Briles.

In recent morning games at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Arkansas has been a major pain in Auburn's ass. Do y'all love playing Auburn at breakfast time as much as we hate it?

There is something about 11 a.m. time slot, isn't there? It just seems so much earlier than even the 11:21 a.m. JP game. Fred Talley finding another year of eligibility would make me feel worlds better about the Razorbacks' chances Saturday, but unfortunately I don't think he ever stopped running following his last game against y'all. Nobody knows where he is.

Tyler Wilson is a good quarterback. Cobi Hamilton is a good wide receiver. Knile Davis is a good running back (well, when he's holding onto the ball). Are these three players enough to give Arkansas success against Auburn's sometimes shaky defense?

No. The problems Arkansas is having on offense begin and end with the offensive line. No running lanes are being opened up, and without a running game to play-action off of, Tyler is dead in the water. Paul Petrino's playcalling has been pretty craptastic as well, although his hands are somewhat tied because of, again, the complete inability of the line to win in the trenches. Add to the mix Chris Gragg's likely absence Saturday, and I have a hard time seeing the Razorbacks sustaining enough drives to keep pace with Auburn.

Is there anyone else on offense that could have a big day? Someone that we Auburn folk may not know about?

Dennis Johnson is a veteran that Tiger fans should be familiar with, although his success has been somewhat modest in comparison to other Razorbacks who have gashed Auburn. He reminds me of Fred Flintstone in his prehistoric car when he's running, legs a blur with rapid, tiny strides. I don't expect him to have a big day, but freshman Jonathan Williams impressed last week after the rout was on, and looks to see increased playing time for the rest of the season.

As far as receivers go, freshman Mekale McKay is an extremely gifted, big-bodied receiver who has the potential to be the Razorbacks' next Marcus Monk. Like Monk, McKay is also a basketball player, though he seems to be waffling on whether he plays for Mike Anderson this season or not. He has a couple of touchdown receptions on the season, and also one agonizing drop in the endzone against Rutgers that could have been the difference in the game.

The 2012 Arkansas defense: Worst defense in the SEC or worst defense in the history of organized football? Please explain.

It's certainly the worst defense that I have ever watched on a regular basis. With ease.

The defensive line is actually not that bad, or at least they aren't that bad at stopping the run. DeQuinta Jones, Chris Smith, and Trey Flowers have all played well at times in the past, and are generally pretty effective at bottling up running backs. Mobile quarterbacks can feast on their poor angles, though, and once you get behind them, things get really scary.

With the exception of Alonzo Highsmith, I'm not sure there is a true linebacker on the team. The Tenarius Wright to linebacker experiment was a colossal failure that seems to have affected Wright's ability even at defensive end, the position he returned to before the Rutgers game. Freshman Otha Peters looks the part, but the light has yet to come on. Hopefully it's coming.

The Razorback secondary is a complete train wreck. Injuries to Tevin Mitchel and walk-on Kaelon Kelleybrew have put an already bad unit in especially dire straights. Though he could select anyone, look for Frazier to pick out Will Hines and Ross Rasner when at the line of scrimmage, and do his best to pick on them all day. It's a great cure for what ails a quarterback.

Are there any matchups you like when Arkansas is on defense? Is there any way Auburn's offense can look bad against this unit? Are there and defensive players for the Hogs that could have a big day?

One thing that Arkansas has done very well in the past against Auburn offenses is avoid the temptation to get sucked into bad positions that open the door for screens and draws. I saw some of this same strategy last week against Texas A&M, and while the Aggies march up and down Kyle Field should really have been measured in furlongs as opposed to yards, I also don't think Kiehl Frazier is on the same level as Johnny Manziel.

To win the game, Arkansas has to force turnovers. And as of right now, the last turnover forced by the Razorbacks was an interception at the beginning of the third quarter against Louisiana-Monroe. We were up 21-7, scored quickly to make it 28-7, and then the worm turned.

What do Arkansas fans think of Auburn? Is there any real hate built up, or do y'all feel as "meh" about us as we feel about y'all?

I have never met an Auburn fan I didn't like personally. Quick with a hand shake and quicker with the booze, in my experience. However, the players from Arkansas that Auburn managed to take out of the state, in conjunction with Malzahn winding up there, and yes, the 2010 season and the Cam Newton saga really did spoil me on Auburn as a program. I know that I'll eventually come back around, though. Y'all are just too damned nice.

What are your general thoughts on the game? Is it going to be the dumpster fire that we're expecting? How confident are you in Arkansas leaving Jordan-Hare with a win?

I'd love to feel otherwise, but after watching the Razorbacks play five games, it's hard to predict anything other than another name-the-score performance from our opponent. Arkansas' psyche is so fragile right now that something as small as an ill-timed false start could completely unnerve the entire team. If Auburn is patient, I look for a game that starts off close and goes downhill quickly for the Hogs at the first sign of adversity, however insignificant.

It's going to be ugly football, but there should be a hell of a party Saturday night. I heard today that the Razorbacks are the only FBS school from an automatic qualifier conference that has yet to cover the spread in a single game this year. That's a trend I don't see getting broken. Tigers by three touchdowns.

But, God, I'd love to be wrong. Thanks for having me, y'all.