Finally, somebody else questions the emperor’s attire.

Going back to last season, I keep wondering what the pundits’ rosy view of the Arkansas program stems from.  Yes, Petrino is one of the best offensive play callers in college football and, yes, Ryan Mallett is a terrific talent.  But when you look at the rest of the team, it’s hard to see that it performed last season as much more than a very talented Conference USA squad.

Yet, here the Hogs sit as the media preseason darlings of the SEC.  And up until now, I haven’t seen much questioning of that.  So it’s nice to see some independent confirmation of my skepticism from Jerry Hinnen.  I don’t think I could do a better job of distilling it than he does in the paragraph:

8-5 last year + horrible defense + quarterback misses spring practice = 14th in the country. To be fair to Schlabach, not many of the teams behind them exactly have a juggernautical look, but still; Georgia scored just as many points per conference game last year as the Hogs did, have far greater across-the-board talent and depth, return everyone but Joe Cox on offense, can’t possibly be so bad in the turnover department, actually made staff changes to repair their Swiss-cheese defense, have the best specialists in the SEC by a mile, and, you know, beat Arkansas last year in Arkansas. The Dawgs, however, are 20th. OK.

If anything, you could argue that Jerry understates the case there.  I don’t think he’d get much of an argument from the Georgia faithful about his “Swiss-cheese” characterization of Martinez’ defense, but even so, that unit managed to finish fifty-one slots higher nationally in total defense than did the Razorbacks’.  Joe Cox had a passer rating of 246.15 against Arkansas in 2009.  His season average was over 111 points less than that.

There’s also the little matter of how well Arkansas did in the turnover margin department and how likely a repeat of that is for 2010.

Believe it or not, Hog fans, this isn’t meant as a knock on your team.  For all I know, this may be the year for Arkansas to rise and shine.  What I don’t get, though,  is what the basis for the punditry double standard is now.  Jerry points to Mallett-love as the source; I think that Petrino’s shiny Louisville record explains some of it, too.

Whatever the reason, it still amounts to a leap of faith in the Arkansas defense that Jerry neatly skewers.

… This is not to say that Arkansas won’t be improved defensively this fall. They could hardly get worse. But the evidence for believing in some kind of quantum leap from the Hog defenders that will make them a top-15 caliber team seems to be nothing more than “Bobby Petrino said so.”

I made a Conference USA crack at the beginning of this post, but it seems to me that in terms of style, that’s the kind of team Petrino has fashioned.  (Sorry, Jerry, but you can say the same thing about Auburn.)  How likely is it that that’s a style of play that’s going to prosper in the more rugged SEC?  And why don’t the pundits recognize that?



Filed under Media Punditry/Foibles, SEC Football

24 responses to “Finally, somebody else questions the emperor’s attire.

  1. RusDawg

    Well timed post. A day after the Sooooooiiie fans invaded you know they will be back.

    I prefer dampened pre-season expectations.


  2. Raleighdawg

    Arkansas 2010 is reminding me a lot of the ole miss 2009.


    • BeerMoney

      Absolutely. You are always going to have a “darkhorse champion by default” candidate every year in the SEC West. This is Arkinsaw’s turn.


    • Go Dawgs!

      Which, sadly, reminded me of Georgia 2008.


  3. Raleighdawg

    Let me clarify my previous post. I only meant to imply that the preseason lovefest reminds me of the ole miss lovefest from last year.


    • FJ

      Arkansas should have a potent offense but I must have missed them importing the Pittsburgh Steelers defense over the spring.

      Its funny how it always seem to be a team in the SEC west that gets a lot of (IMO) unwarranted pre-season press.


  4. We all know that defense wins Championships. We need look no further than ourselves to glean a clear understanding of this phenomena.

    The media can beat us to death with a Mallett(pun intended) all they like, but unless they make huge strides in improving that strikingly offensive defense….forget about it.

    By the way….

    Mallet – (mal-it) n. A TOOL with a LARGE HEAD used to strike a surface without damaging it.


  5. Aubiece

    AU’s D is the weak link right now.
    I like AU’s chances of righting the D
    better the the piggies. Chiz and Roof
    had very little to work with last year.
    AU had 2 LBs play all 115 plays vs Northwestern.
    AU had no depth at LB. If the incoming Frosh
    can contribute, AU should shore up their D.
    A big if of course.
    Enjoy your blog.
    War Eagle!


  6. Normaltown Mike

    Swiss cheese takes great offense at being associated with the 2009 Georgia D.

    Grated cheese is a far more accurate desciption.


  7. Derek

    I don’t think anyone Is saying that Arky is championship caliber, but I do recall them nearly beating the gators last fall and but for some bad calls probably should have won. The difference between the 09 rebels and Arky is receiver. Snead had no targets while mallett has good players to throw to. I may be alone, but I have been and continue to worry about the Arky game. They have enough to outscore you if they are on and we aren’t. 14th? Maybe not, but I would not be shocked if they won 9.


    • Aligator

      The Gators half assed it through many a game last year due to a cherry Offensive Coordinator (see the Arky game to note) and a ballhoggin’ Tebow. *I drink the Kool-Aide every week!


  8. HamDawg11

    Yeah, their offense is all around pretty solid. They’ve got a decent running game and several very good receivers, including Williams at TE. Mallett probably needs to improve his conditioning, he seemed to fade late in games last year. Missing spring practices cannot be a good thing for him, and he doesn’t seem to have the greatest attitude in the world. When his team was down and things weren’t going well for the Hogs last year, he got all pissy and stuff and became a head case.

    Yeah, they can surely beat us and will most likely give us all we can handle, but I like our chances. We pretty much did whatever we wanted to do on offense last year, don’t see it being too much different this season. Ball control with solid running game should wear ’em down. Maybe we can give Mallett a few shots to get his head spinning early.

    Go Dawgs!!!


  9. ConnGator

    Given the contrasting perceptions of the Tennessee and Georgia defenses last year I find it jarring to see that UGA only allowed 1/5 yard more per play than Tennessee.


  10. As I said in the post, I don’t blame anyone for being skeptical about Auburn’s chances. I personally happen to think, yes, our defense is going to much improved and the offense under Newton is going to be even more explosive (mostly due to both teams being in the second year of their systems), but hey, I’m an Auburn fan. Until the defense actually proves that on the field, there’s no reason for anyone who’s not to believe that.

    With the Hogs, it’s not that I think Auburn ought to be there in their place; it’s that if you’re going to make the “oh, the defense will be better” allowance for them, what reason do you have not to make it for Auburn? It’s either include them both or–much, much more sensibly–include neither.


  11. gernblanski

    On David Hale’s blog yesterday, I wrote these comments in response to the Two-A-Days SEC interview with Chris Low.

    Here is my problem with Low’s interpretation of the strength of the West vs the East.

    Georgia beat Auburn last year. Georgia beat Arkansas last year. Georgia should have beat LSU last year. Also, last year was a “down” year for us.

    Almost everyone is predicting that we will be better next year despite inexperience at the QB position because our defense will improve and our running game is strong.

    I agree that Arkansas has a better QB, but what else on their team is better than what we have? Special teams? No. OL? No. Running Game? No. Defense? Push. So the Hogs are better than us?

    Auburn has just as much inexperience at QB as we do. Our running backs are better. Our OL is better. Our receivers are better. Defensively, Auburn was last in the conference in scoring defense and next to last in total defense. WE WERE BETTER THAN THEY WERE DEFENSIVELY IN 2009 – and we think our defense is going to be better in 2010.

    LSU has an experience QB (2 of them actually) but there are concerns about both of them. They lost their best RB from last year, but appear to have found a good replacement. The were much better than us defensively last year and I think they will be good again under Chavis. I could see ranking LSU slightly ahead of us.

    Of course being Chris Low’s POWER POLL champion does win you anything on the field but it does matter. ESPN is THE dominant force in the perception of and coverage of college football teams. Perception and Coverage mean a lot when schools are out recruiting. So when the lead SEC reporter for ESPN says that UGA is lagging behind Auburn, LSU, and Arkansas with no real facts behind it (just his perception and opinion) it can affect what impressionable 17 years old think.

    I understand that I am looking at this with rose-colored glasses but I find some of this baffling. I have yet to hear one pundit predict that our defense will be worse next year. Not one pundit expects Murray to be worse than our previous QB. Most expect us to rebound to have better record in 2010. Add those facts into the stats & outcomes from last year, you would think that sum would be the expectation that we should be slotted above Arkansas and Auburn. But apparently, 1+1=-3 in this case.


  12. Aligator

    Lord Jesus Senator, you must be bored out of your mind to even have to answer idiots like this. I mean these yahoos have the slightest clue right now and most are just mailing it in to make sure their bosses are happy going into the summer. Please do not entertain this kid of BS again. You are much better that that. Just like we all know that UGA is sitting pretty right now and no one has to give one freaking rats ass of an explanation to anyone, especially you!


  13. Vious

    Their O was not that great against D’s that were remotely good

    Their D was terrible across the board and may be better but really, not that much better

    They are an 8-win type team and not much better


  14. The Painful Truth

    With those returning defenses, neither Arkansas nor Georgia belong in the Top 25.


  15. God Shammgod

    Why is Arkansas at 14 so ridiculous? I’d say a 14 preseason might be slightly high, but its not crazy. a #14 ranking warrants a 9-3 season in the SEC, which is very doable for this Arkansas team.

    Lets look at the schedule compared to last year:

    this year on the sec schedule florida will be replaced with vandy. So if the team of 17 returning starters were not to improve at all this coming year, they would go 8-4 instead of 7-5.

    last year Arkansas had its bye week on week 2, only to have to play uga, bama, a&m, auburn, florida, and ole miss in 6 consecutive weeks. try it sometime, with a team full of sophomore and freshman, it aint easy

    this year the bye week is in the middle of the sec schedule, a much more favorable position.

    Mallett’s biggest flaw last year was his play on the road compared to at home.

    last year: @bama, @florida, @lsu, @ole miss

    you could argue those were the four best teams in the sec last year.

    this year: @usc, @auburn, @ miss state, @uga

    Do any of those teams scare you? NO. south carolina has yet to prove they are anything; uga plays ark start of september, when the d coordinator will still be teaching his system to only 4 def returning starters, plus theyll still be breaking in a qb; auburn got destroyed by ark last year. it will be close this year, but ark will go in the favorite

    Defense: While defense was bad last year, it was not as bad as some statistics some indicate.

    Scoring defense from year 1 to year 2 went from 12th to 7th. I’d say thats significant improvement.

    Turnover margin from year 1 to year 2 was the night and day.

    With five OL with heavy starting experience returning, along with that stable of running backs, arkansas will have more control of the clock and the game with their running game. What hurt the Arkansas defense was the offense scoring in 3 minutes or going three out because heavy amount of passing.

    Arkansas’ defense last year should signs of what it can be. They held ingram to 48 yards and the bama offense to 14 points through three quarters. in the florida game, tebow was sacked 6 times and floridas rushing attack was held 150 yards below their average.

    What negated this great play in these games was the big play. With all of the secondary returning, including isaac madison who was the top cb going into last year before a torn acl, will return. If they can mature and not give up the big plays, this team will be in position to win just about every game they play. they wont, but they with the offense they’ll have a good chance.


    • You’re missing the point.

      The issue isn’t whether Arkansas can put together a season worthy of a 14 ranking. It’s how you can raise the “if the defense improves” justification for Arkansas without making the exact same case for schools like Auburn or Georgia. I would just like to see some intellectual consistency from the pundit class, that’s all.

      As for what you see coming, all the points you raise in support of your team’s improvement boil down to spin and hope. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I can make equally compelling arguments for my school (which doesn’t start in nearly as deep a hole defensively as yours does and which has far, far better special teams than Arkansas, by the way), just as Jerry did for his.

      That’s what’s so great about the offseason. We’re all infected with PH.