1) What were your thoughts on Arkansas going into this season and how has it played out according to those expectations?
I had the Hogs going 8-4 (4-4) and I thought it was a lock. I thought no way they win more, no way they win less. Now all I can say is that at least I didn't have them at 9-10 wins like most of the local media did. The 4-4 conference record is still realistically in play. Toledo and Texas Tech pretty much destroyed any fandom I had left. I left the Texas Tech game with 13 minutes left, because for the first time in my life, I had no faith in the Hogs making a comeback. To be the only team in the SEC West with a losing record is pretty embarrassing, but at least we aren't Tennessee!
2) Arkansas has played a very tough schedule so far. Even the Toledo game looks a whole lot better right now. Do you think Arkansas is (as many, including Vegas, would say) much better than their record?
People have said that about Arkansas every year since Petrino was canned. That John L. Smith team was a lot better than 4-8, but coaching held them back. Bielema's first season, they probably should have been 5-7, but new coaches and the forth defensive coordinator in four years held them back. Last year it was, "they're the best 6-6 team in a America."But really, LSU and Ole Miss had basically quit on their seasons by that point and Texas was a dumpster fire win in the bowl game. The fact is that Bielema is terrible at covering as a favorite, which you don't have to cover to win, but does that mean you are as dominant if you aren't covering the spread? They go in as favorites over Toledo and Texas Tech only to crap the bed and roll around in it. All that to say, I'm done saying Arkansas is any better than their record indicates until they can handle their business as favorites, much like Petrino did.
3) Arkansas hasn't been very effective in the red zone this season (nor has Auburn). Is that a matter of execution or play calling? And how do you feel about Dan Enos, so far?
It's execution. I think Enos is a fine play caller. But if the offensive line isn't getting a push off the ball, you can't call run plays. Fans have blamed him for abandoning the run. If you are on a ship and it is sinking, you are going to abandon it. That's what Enos did with calling running plays earlier this year, especially the Toledo and Texas Tech games. Not to mention, Enos has called some perfect pass plays in the red zone and Brandon Allen has missed the throws. I put it all on execution, which is a part of coaching, but not necessarily play calling.
4) Brandon Allen is a pretty good QB. Alex Collins is a fantastic running back. How do you see Arkansas attacking what has been a porous Auburn defense?
Enos has showed us he will attach a defense whatever way he thinks it will work. He isn't married to the run of the pass.The offense hasn't really set the world on fire this year. Matter of fact, when you think about scores they needed to have to win in each of their four losses: 17 beats Toledo, 29 beats A&M, 36 beats Texas Tech and 28 beats Alabama. If I was told that at the beginning I would have said the Hogs surely went 3-1 during that stretch. I know Auburn's defense has been struggling, but I think this is a good test for both sides. If Arkansas hangs 42, I will think the Hogs' offense has turned the corner and poor Muschamp is having to coach a Sun Belt defense. If the Hogs only score 21, I'll continue to be disappointed in the offense, and maybe the Auburn defense isn't as bad as some people think.
5) What are your thoughts on the "rivalry" and the animosity between the coaches? What will a win or a loss mean for Bielema to Arkansas fans?
Between the coaches, I think it's a style thing. But, I've always wondered how Tim Horton has played into the rivalry. From what I understand, Bielema wanted Horton to stay, but was told "no thanks."
As for fans, the people in the state of Arkansas that view this is a rivalry are just butt hurt over Malzahn. Either they wish he was the coach, so they want to beat him so they don't feel as bad he isn't. Or they're glad he's at Auburn because of all the drama that was involved with him and the Springdale high crew his one year as offensive coordinator.
6) Your prediction?
Arkansas is bad as a favorite, so I doubt they cover. I'll go with 24-23 Arkansas.
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