Category Archives: Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal

TFW you can’t tell the coaches without a scorecard

Damn, Sam.

For the second time in three offseasons, Sam Pittman has turned over half of his coaching staff. If you’re having a hard time keeping track of all the changes, here’s a rundown:

  • OC: Kendal Briles (TCU OC) —> Dan Enos
  • STC: Scott Fountain
  • RB: Jimmy Smith
  • DC: Barry Odom (UNLV HC) —> Travis Williams
  • WR: Justin Stepp (South Carolina WR) —> Kenny Guiton
  • TE: Jon Cooper (fired) —> Cody Kennedy (Arkansas OL) —> Dowell Loggains (South Carolina OC) —> Morgan Turner
  • OL: Brady Davis (LSU OL) —> Cody Kennedy
  • DL: Derrick LeBlanc (fired) —> Jermial Ashley (fired) —> Deke Adams
  • LB: Rion Rhoades (fired) —> Michael Scherer (UNLV DC) —> Marcus Woodson (co-DC/likely secondary)
  • CB: Sam Carter (Ole Miss CB) —> Dominique Bowman (not retained) —> Deron Wilson

That’s chaotic.

With the turnover, the Hogs are set to pay their assistant coaches almost 10% less this year than the 2022 staff made.  Thrifty!  I didn’t realize Greg McGarity had a consulting gig on the side.  (I keed, I keed… I think.)



Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal

“We didn’t come to paint.”®

Look who’s coming back to Arky…

I’m sure the greetings will be warm.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Fall and Rise of Bobby Petrino

Is Sam Pittman college football’s biggest masochist?

Jeez, have you looked at Arkansas’ schedule this year?

While Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman had a hell of a 2021, he’ll need to eat his Wheaties to have major success in 2022. Looking at the Razorbacks’ schedule, they could easily face seven ranked opponents. Like Mississippi State, Arkansas will face half of the 2021 College Football Playoff field. The season starts with one those foes in Cincinnati. With contests against South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama by Oct. 1, the Razorbacks won’t be able to ease into their schedule. The non-conference slate not only includes a participant in last season’s playoff in Cincinnati, but contests at BYU and against a good Liberty program.

  • Sept. 3 vs. Cincinnati
  • Sept. 10 vs. South Carolina
  • Sept. 17 vs. Missouri State
  • Sept. 24 vs. Texas A&M (Arlington)
  • Oct. 1 vs. Alabama
  • Oct. 8 at Mississippi State
  • Oct. 15 at BYU
  • Oct. 29 at Auburn
  • Nov. 5 vs. Liberty
  • Nov. 12 vs. LSU
  • Nov. 19 vs. Ole Miss
  • Nov. 25 at Missouri

Woo, boy.  Good luck with that, Coach.

Arky won nine games last year, against one of college football’s tougher schedules.  If the Hogs manage that again, it’s time to give the man some serious head coach of the year consideration.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal

The fall and rise of Arkansas

There’s a statistical story to tell about how quickly Sam Pittman has revived the fortunes of Arkansas football and you’ll find it here.  As much credit as he deserves for that, Chad Morris deserves the opposite for driving the program into the ditch, which makes for an unusual story of the guy who never had even been a coordinator before taking the job clearly being better suited for it than someone who was an acclaimed offensive coordinator and then ran a football team prior to arriving in Fayetteville.

That’s definitely not the usual career path.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Stats Geek!

Saturday’s chess match

As indicated earlier, Dan Lanning’s job looks fairly simple to me:  take away the deep threat in the passing game and limit Jefferson’s ability to do damage with his feet.  There may be some tweaking to the scheme (particularly, as I mentioned, in playing more zone), but to me it seems like defensive success for Georgia will be more about execution than anything.  Yes, I’m probably guilty of oversimplifying here, but if the Dawgs maintain contain and force Jefferson to beat them with an intermediate passing game, I’m not seeing a lot of Hog points showing up on the scoreboard.

The question I’ve got is what happens on the other side of the line of scrimmage.  Does Odom dance with what brung him so far — and, let’s be fair, that’s been very good, as Arky is second in the conference in defensive ypp against P5 opponents — or does he throw a change up at Todd Monken?

The reason I ask is because of the Clemson game.  Yeah, I know the tendency to explain Georgia’s anemic offense in the opener is to chalk it up to injuries and the need to throw inexperienced players into the mix, but I don’t forget that Venables completely changed his MO for that game and had Monken… well, I hesitate to say confused, rather more like non-aggressive.  In any event, the 4.20 ypp Georgia averaged against Clemson is the lowest in Monken’s time in Athens.

Second lowest (4.36) came against Arkansas in last season’s opener.  In fourteen games, those are the only two in which Georgia’s offense was held below five yards per play.  I’ve got to think that Venables saw something in last year’s Arkansas game that helped convince him to take a similar approach.

My gut, then, tells me there’s definite value to dropping lots of defenders back in coverage in order to force Georgia to work its way down the field.  My head, though, says there is one difference for Saturday, and that is Monken has better weapons to deploy than he did in the two other games.  Most notably, the quarterback situation is vastly different from what it was when Mathis started against Arky, but the overall health of the offense is improved from the Clemson game, particularly when it comes to the receiving corps.

If Odom wants to stick with what’s worked so far, he’s facing a quarterback in Daniels who won’t be confused by zone looks and is also savvy enough to take advantage of a busted coverage or two (if you go back and look at the Texas A&M game, those were there, but Calzada couldn’t close the deal when it was offered).  He’s also going to have his hands full with Georgia’s tight ends, assuming Washington is back and able to contribute.

So, does he stick with his 3-2-6 scheme, swap it out wholeheartedly for something else, or mix and match?  He’s certainly been around the block enough to have more than one card up his sleeve, but going away from your strength is often a dicey proposition. Then again, if Monken’s prepared a game plan for that and you show up looking different, maybe that throws a wrench into Georgia’s offense.

That being said, if you’re Arkansas going into this game, you have to be thinking Georgia’s not going to let you score more than in the upper teens at best.  They only managed 20 against TAMU, the best defense they’ve seen so far, at a neutral site.  If that’s where the Hogs’ offense is going to land, they’ve got to do what they can to limit Georgia’s explosive plays.

Maybe this comes down to whether either team can get off to a quick start and put the other in a hole.  Both are capable of that.  We saw Georgia obliterate Vanderbilt in less than a quarter last week, while Arkansas took a 17-0 lead over the Aggies that it never relinquished and that allowed Odom to run his defense the way he wanted.

In other words, I don’t know how this will play out.  But I’ll be watching to see who gets the better of this chess game.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Pace yourself.

Here’s a chart worth looking over:

At 2.1 plays per minute, Georgia ranks 108th nationally.  No doubt some of that can be chalked up to slowing things down due to big second half leads, but this is a team that operates at a deliberate pace, although it will resort to hurry up now and then.

Arkansas runs 2.25 plays per minute.  That’s 79th.  Briles doesn’t exactly race against the clock, either.

Between those figures and the likelihood that both defenses are going to deploy in a manner designed to make the offenses work their way down the field, the under (48.5) looks awfully good from where I sit.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

The other side’s third down

Yesterday, I showed you what JT Daniels has done on third down so far this year.  Here’s the story for KJ Jefferson (it’s the battle of two-initial quarterbacks!).

Looking at his situational stats, he’s not that hot on second down, either, with a passer rating of 72.68.  But he is friggin’ dynamite on first down:  25-33, 572 yards, 17.33 ypa, 15 first downs, 5 touchdowns, 1 INT.  That all adds up to a 265.30 passer rating.  Well over 40% of his pass attempts come on first down, which tells you that Kendall Briles knows when to dial up what works.  I assume Lanning will devise his game plan accordingly.

Jefferson’s strengths are running the ball and the deep pass.  He’s not particularly accurate in the intermediate passing game, which is indicated in Rollins’ stats.  It’s not going to surprise me in the slightest if the Dawgs play more zone to counter that than we’ve seen and it might be well worth your time to see how much Tykee Smith sees the field, since he played a lot of zone last season at West Virginia.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

“I think Georgia’s going to beat the shit out of them.”

These anonymous takes from eight coaches and team staffers who have either seen tape or been in games against Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and/or Ole Miss start off reading like some of the best rat poison/Dawg porn you’ve ever seen.

“They’re impressive up front, to say the least,” an SEC personnel staffer said. “Jordan Davis looks like he was created in a lab somewhere. Adam Anderson and guys like Quay Walker — when it comes to pass-rush ability, they’re elite. They’re really good players. Their secondary, I’d say it’s above average. They don’t have a whole bunch of first-round draft picks back there right now to my knowledge, but they’re good players.”

“They’ve got, no lie, like four edge rushers and they’ve got like six interior d-linemen they can put in there,” an SEC defensive coach said. “Those dudes are freaks. ‘99’ (Davis) gets a lot of hype and he’s good, but ‘95’ (Devonte Wyatt) and ‘88’ (Jalen Carter) — ‘88’s going to be special. He was my favorite player in 2020 out of all the defensive players in the country (in that recruiting class). That kid can play football, man. He’s playing real good. ‘95’s playing real good, too. He doesn’t look as imposing as ‘99’ and ‘88,’ but he probably makes the most plays out of the interior d-linemen. And then, of course, they’ve got those edge rushers, and Nakobe Dean’s playing really good.”

“I’d be very surprised if they won,” an SEC team official said of Arkansas. “I just think Georgia’s too talented. I just think it’s not even close, especially on defense. I think Georgia’s defense will just suffocate them. And Arkansas has kind of had a gauntlet, too. They had to play a full game versus Texas even though they won handily, and then had to play a full game versus A&M. Georgia’s going to be fresh. They’re going to be ready to go. They haven’t had to play a full game other than the Clemson game. I would be surprised if it’s close.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if Georgia beat them 37-17 or something like that,” another SEC staffer said. “I think if Arkansas and Ole Miss played right now that Ole Miss would beat ’em. Arkansas’ going to lose in my opinion — based off personnel, they’ll lose to Georgia, they’ll lose to Ole Miss, they’ll lose to Alabama, and they may drop one more. I still think Arkansas is far from being an SEC West contender.”

But that’s just the defense.  Things seem to kind of defuse when the conversation turns to the other side of the ball.

“Arkansas has a really good front,” an SEC personnel figure said. “They do the ‘rush three and drop eight,’ and they can get pressure with three. And I think Georgia has a good o-line, but it’s not what you’re used to in the Kirby Smart era with the o-line at Georgia. I think their o-line is good. It’s not first-rounders and draft picks everywhere like they’ve had in the past. If they can get into some man-coverage situations, the receivers at Georgia can win, but Arkansas does a good job of understanding zone coverage and baiting you into throws. But I would say the Georgia o-line versus the Arkansas d-line would be a matchup that Arkansas has a little bit of an advantage.”

… As for Georgia, the offensive line isn’t the only aspect of the Bulldogs’ offense that opposing SEC staffers described as being solid but not elite. Wide receiver is another.

“The big knock I would say on them is that they don’t have anybody in that receiver room that’s super scary to me,” a personnel official said.

And there are at least some around the conference who put QB J.T. Daniels in that same “solid but not elite” category.

Okay.  Tell me more.

“One of the biggest question marks with Georgia is at quarterback,” a personnel figure said. “Daniels has shown that he’s good enough at times. But how good is he? And can he win the game if they need him to win a game?”

JT is 7-0 as a starter at Georgia.  They’ve never needed him to win a game in all that time?  If that’s the case, here’s hoping the streak continues.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Georgia Football

Unstoppable, meet immovable.

Looks like something’s gotta give Saturday.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

This week’s meeting of the Overachievers Club is now in session.

I have seen more than a few folks suggest this week that Saturday’s game reminds them of two previous Georgia games, the 2017 Mississippi State game and the 2015 one against Alabama.  Apparently, Arkansas is like MSU in the former and Georgia in the latter.

Honestly, I’m not feeling it.  That 2017 Mississippi State team’s rep coming in was built on a whipping of an LSU team that lost a couple of weeks later to Troy and finished 9-4.  Arkansas’ resume already has two wins over top-20 teams.  In 2015, Georgia actually found itself as the favorite in several quarters; nobody in Vegas sees the Hogs in a similar light.

But the real reason I’m not seeing it is because there’s been a complete absence of cockiness and trash talk emanating from Fayetteville this week.  Sam Pittman isn’t Dan Mullen.  And I doubt his team makes a pre-game effort to stare down the Dawgs, as Georgia tried with ‘Bama.  (Yeah, that worked well.)

Some of that — probably a lot of that — is because of the personal relationship Pittman and Smart share.  There’s too much respect flowing both ways for either to let their teams show their ass.

But there’s another factor that I think is in play here.  Arkansas under Pittman is an impressive 11-3 against the spread.  And, if anything, that’s intensified in 2021.  The topper is that, per Bill Connelly ($$), Georgia’s been overachieving, too.

Georgia Bulldogs: 75% vs. the spread, +14.4 points per game. The only time the Bulldogs didn’t cover this year was when they allowed South Carolina (+31.5) a garbage-time touchdown to turn a 40-6 cover into a 40-13 loss. The Dawgs have been rampant and just passed Alabama for No. 1 in both SP+ and ESPN’s FPI.

Arkansas Razorbacks: 100% vs. the spread, +13.3 points per game. The Hogs were projected to improve, but they’ve done more than that — they’ve already taken down both Texas and Texas A&M, and they’re 4-0 for the first time in 18 years. Now they get a shot at fellow overachiever Georgia.

Georgia’s already beaten the spread by more than 25 points in two games this season and the Dawgs have absolutely trashed Connelly’s SP+ as a predictor, missing Georgia games by an average of 16.4.

Both of these teams are way beyond living up to expectations so far this season.  Trash talking that kind of effort seems pretty silly.  In other words, save the comparisons for another time.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, What's Bet In Vegas Stays In Vegas