I wanted to try something different this week for the Know the Foe, so I asked the bloggers at our brother/sister SB Nation site, Arkansas Expats, to answer a few questions.
1. There were definitely some high expectations for Arkansas this year with a top 10 preseason ranking. How much do you attribute to the poor season to John L. Smith? How well do you think Arkansas would have done if Petrino would have never had the scandal?
A question that is debated every single day in The Natural State. John L. Smith is doing absolutely no coaching whatsoever. He doesn't even keep the microphone on his headset down. So he certainly shoulders plenty of blame for the depths this dumpster fire of a season is reaching. However... I don't think Arkansas has the personnel on defense to even be competitive with Alabama, Texas A&M, or LSU, regardless of coach, so it's not like Petrino's absence cost the Razorbacks a national championship. I think Petrino would have found ways to beat ULM, Rutgers, and Ole Miss. Mississippi State is shaping up to be another game where Petrino's absence likely is the difference between a win and a loss for the Hogs.
Knile is talking a lot of heat for his failure to deliver this season, and it's my theory that what's missing has less to do with him than his surrounding personnel. In Davis' standout 2010 season, he enjoyed not only a talented and experienced offensive line to run behind, but also one of the best blocking group of receivers I've ever seen. Davis could patiently wait for the offensive line to provide a lane, and then explode into the second level where many times his receiving corps would spring him to a huge play. This season he has rarely gotten to the second level, much less broken into the open field.There's no question he's not the same back, and I don't doubt that he has some lingering fears of injury that are hindering his performance, but I really think he's a victim of his 2010 success more than anything else.
3. Who do you want to be Arkansas' next head coach?
Since Bobby Petrino was canned, my #1 has always been Chris Petersen of Boise State. He's is similar to Petrino in many respects, namely being an ingenious offensive playcaller with a knack for taking middling recruiting classes and putting a disproportionate amount of football players in the NFL. Also, winning a boat load of football games.That's just who I want, however, and there has been NO chatter about Petersen being interested in the least. The hot names this week are Gary Patterson of TCU and Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State. I'd be very excited about either.
4. How would Razorback nation feel about Petrino getting another job in the SEC, or what about in the West if Auburn were to hire him?
Well, we went through that with our last coach, and while it did provide for some intense games and fan interaction with Ole Miss, I don't think it's anything Razorback nation would like to relive with Petrino. The last thing that the SEC West needs is Bobby Petrino with easier access to the recruits of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. It would be easier for him to develop that good-enough defense that he has always lacked, and once he did, it would be all over with but for the crying.I really hope that Petrino ends up at somewhere like Cal. If it has to be an SEC school, Kentucky would be optimal. Tennessee with Petrino is pretty scary, but Petrino at Auburn is downright terrifying.
5. Arkansas has basically dominated MSU. Do Arkansas fans view this game as one they should win based on past history? What is MSU to Arkansas, just a warm-up for LSU?
It really depends on where the game is played. Yes, Arkansas has enjoyed tremendous success against State, but games in Starkville are ALWAYS tough, even when the Razorbacks are good and the Bulldogs are not. If Bobby Petrino were still the head coach, this would be a game the fan base would expect to win. After he was fired, most fans resigned themselves to a dogfight. And after the way this season has gone, expectations for another victory are pretty much gone.
6. What are your keys to the game this for Arkansas to win? What areas do you think MSU can be successful?
Arkansas has a chance to win if the Razorbacks' offensive line can protect Tyler Wilson and their defensive line can get to Tyler Russell on third down. Getting off the field on third down has been extremely difficult for the Arkansas defense this season, and that has an effect on morale as much as anything else. If the defense can get some stops and afford the offense some shorter fields, the Hogs will definitely have a chance.On the other hand, if Dan Mullen pays attention to what has worked for Arkansas' opponents over the past few weeks, it's unlikely that any adjustments have been made. That means relentless blitzing on defense and, well, pretty much any kind of passing attack they'd want to run on offense. Screens, slants, double moves... they all work. Russell could very well have a career day.
7. Game prediction?
I think that Arkansas will be able to score some against Mississippi State. Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton are going to connect as they have in nearly every game this season, and Dennis Johnson and freshman Jonathan Williams will likely combine for 150 yards or so on the ground. I simply don't think that the Razorbacks will be able to make enough stops on defense. At least a couple of defensive breakdowns will lead to easy scores for State, and if they can generate a couple of longer drives as well, I could easily see the Bulldogs scoring four or five touchdowns. I'll say Mississippi State 38 , Arkansas 28.