Since none of us actually got to see the Troy game and judge the Razorbacks with our own eyes, I turned to someone who could answer all our pesky questions about this week's opponent, The Hog Blogger.
Well, here's the thing. Nutt isn't a completely awful coach. He's a mediocre coach. Any Hog fan with a record book can tell you that. In my opinion, if he wants to take some heat off and not have people pushing him out the door again next season, Atlanta isn't where he'll make that happen, especially with LSU playing like they are. What he needs is a big-time bowl win. If he beats Texas in the Cotton Bowl, a game that looks very probable at this point, there's no way he could get pushed out. His teams tend to come out flat in bowl games though, often leaving fans with a bitter taste in their mouths for the next seven months. Oh, and those stats I was talking about?
2-5 in bowl games with wins over Texas and Missouri, losses to Minnesota, Oklahoma, UNLV, Michigan, Wisconsin
No BCS berths
1 -10 win season
9 years of back to back SEC Losses
0 SEC Titles in 9 years
0 BCS bowls in 9 years
0 wins against Florida in 9 years
38-34 SEC record after 9 years (don't forget 4 games against the Mississippi schools every year)
0 of the top 250 Rivals players signed in latest class
0 of the top 3 in-state players signed in the latest class
Longest tenured Div 1 coach, at the same school, without a single BCS bowl appearance
Since his arrival in Fayetteville, something like 38 different teams have played in BCS bowls. Is it really unrealistic to ask him to make us a Top 40 program?
What are your personal feelings about Coach Nutt? Is he the guy to make Arkansas a top program in the SEC, or do you think the Hogs need a new coach?
The thing that gets him in trouble with a lot of fans is his lack of integrity and, it would seem, a poor moral compass. Anyone who still thinks he's not a complete egomaniac after last season wasn't watching what I was watching. It's not so much his inability to develop the passing game that angers fans, it's that he says almost every spring and fall, "We're really working hard on the passing game, we're going to develop it and make it a threat," and yet every year this millennium, it's the same old crap. You think Casey's 3-17 performance against LSU last year was an aberration? Even when the Hogs landed in Atlanta in 2003 on a miraculous hail mary, Matt Jones was 2-15 before completing two long passes on the final drive to win the game. Then, there are those people who complain and say things like, "Well, we need to do what we're good at, and that's running the ball. Who cares if we can't pass when the run is unstoppable?" My answer to that is simple. I'm not asking to throw it 35 times a game. I'm not asking to abandon the run. I AM asking to have at least a little hope that my team can convert a 3rd and 8, and that my quarterback will complete over 50% of his passes most of the time. Is a quarterback going 12-17 for 150 yards and a touchdown that difficult? If you look at Mitch and Casey's stats last season, it looks like it is.
As far as the morality goes, the lying, the taking credit for things his players do (see my attachment), the alleged Donna Bragg affair and pursuing the K-State, NC State, and Miami jobs thing while denying all of it, and recently, the accusations of how he treated departed offensive lineman Colin Tucker, and allowing Marcus Harrison to play this week just confirm my suspicions. Sorry to be so long-winded on that, but it's a fairly divisive and complex issue.
So, yeah, in short, the Hogs need a new coach.
On to the important stuff: Has any receiver emerged in the absence of Marcus Monk to be a real receiving threat, or is the Razorback receiving corp lost without him?
Well, we have some guys who should have talent (London Crawford and senior Chris Baker), but they've never really shown that ability to consistently catch balls. Robert Johnson, our quarterback for the USC game in 2006, is probably our best receiver, but the fans have fallen in love with Crosby Tuck, a freshman out of Shiloh Christian in Springdale, who caught a 42-yard TD pass from D-Mac out of the Wildcat against Troy. If Crawford shows up, he could be excellent, but he absolutely disappeared last year late, and Johnson ended up starting at flanker for most of the second half of the season.
Since none of us got to see the Troy game, how often was the Wildcat/Wild Hog package used, and how often do you think we'll see it on Saturday?
Honestly, I have no idea. When new offensive coordinator David Lee was here in 2003, he helped establish the mid-line option with Matt Jones. There's been a lot of talk of the Hogs running that with D-Mac and Felix, or even, get this, Robert Johnson. A lot of it will depend on its effectiveness, though.
Is the QB play of Casey Dick important to this offense, or do you think the Hogs can win with the backfield's effort and the bare minimum of competency under center?
I definitely think we've shown we can win when he plays poorly, and if the Hogs get up early, we won't need him much at all. However, if we get down early and our offense stalls through the first quarter, if he can't complete some passes with at least some frequency, they might as well just go home. The thing that kills me about Casey is that since his first start almost two years ago, I don't think he's gotten one bit better; if anything, he's regressed. If the Hogs have to pass to get back in the game, it's over without Marcus Monk.
The O-line was a question mark heading into the season for Arkansas. Do you have any worries about their ability to protect Dick and open holes for McFadden and Jones, or did they reload and look good against Troy?
The looked good on pass protection, but they probably could have played better when it came to clearing the way for D-Mac and Felix. We had some difficulty running between the tackles in spots, and a lot of that was due to the play of the O-line. However, they've had two weeks since playing Troy, and that very well could have just been a bad game, so who knows what could happen.
How important is Peyton Hillis to the Arkansas offense?
Absolutely essential. I actually drove to the Mississippi State game with some friends last season, his first game injured, and they absolutely shut our running game down. If D-Mac hadn't taken back a kick, we easily could have lost that game, considering our other touchdown was on a reverse pass out of the Wildcat. D-Mac did have 188 yards rushing against LSU, but 80 of those were on one run. With Peyton, 10-1. Without, 0-3. Luckily, he's going 100% this week. That's one reason why I'm not a big fan of him returning punts, but unfortunately he's our most sure-handed guy back there. I'd say the record is evidence enough last year.
On defense, who's the biggest playmaker for the Hogs?
Truth be told, we're not 100% sure yet. Matt Hewitt had to play some linebacker last year because of some injuries, and this year he's back at safety. The kid will knock your head off, and he had a huge pick against Troy. Weston Dacus, our middle linebacker, is an absolute beast as well. He reminds me a lot of Zach Thomas. He's fast, and a huge hitter.
McFadden and Jones have gotten plenty of credit (even from us!) as being the best backfield in the country, but our own beloved Tide is well stocked with talented rushers running behind a very physical O-line. How confident are you that the Arkansas defense can contain our rushing attack?
I'd say I'm still pretty confident. Our front four is one of the best in the nation, especially with Marcus Harrison back, and we've got a solid corps of linebackers with Freddie Fairchild back from a torn ACL last season. I'd make the argument that P.J. Hill is better than any back you guys have, and he only had 36 yards rushing in last year's Capital One Bowl.
Conversely, are there any fears that the secondary won't be able to contain the passing attack if the Hogs find themselves stacking the box to keep Grant and Co. in check?
Absolutely. Troy killed our corners, and all they did was run a bunch of fade routes and their receivers made ridiculous catches, not unlike what South Carolina did to us last year. Hopefully, we won't need more than seven in the box at any point to contain that attack, and if that's the case, I don't think we'll get torched too badly.
Big thanks to him for helping us out, and be sure to clik here for his Q&A with OTS and myself.