The College Football Playoff committee shocked fans and analysts on Tuesday night when it revealed that one-loss Texas A&M was No. 4 in its rankings, ahead of undefeated Washington.
Casey Dick could not have been surprised. Earlier in the day, he spoke with SEC Country about the superiority of A&M’s division.
“The SEC West is just brutal,” he said. “I think if you take any team — I don’t care what conference you’re in — and you put ‘em in the SEC West, it’s gonna be a different conference for anybody. You put Clemson in there. You put Ohio State in there. You put Florida State in the SEC and let ‘em play those teams week in, week out … I’m not saying those teams aren’t good football teams, but it’s on a different level.”
We reached out to the former Arkansas quarterback for a feature on Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee (scheduled to publish Friday), and Dick — currently an offensive coordinator and social studies teacher at Bentonville (Ark.) High School — was willing to talk some Razorbacks football, too.
“I think it’s definitely been a successful year,” he said. “They’ve found some answers that they wanted, especially at critical positions.”
Arkansas (5-3) is effectively out of the West race this season, but first-year starter Austin Allen has had plenty of standout moments.
The junior from Fayetteville played a nearly flawless game to upend No. 15 TCU in September, threw the ball all over No. 12 Ole Miss last month, and has earned a reputation as a hard-nosed player who doesn’t shy from contact.
That’s what Dick likes most.
“There are some guys that can stand in the pocket a take a hit a couple times, but it’s like Austin could stare down the barrel of a gun consistently, take a hit and deliver the ball,” Dick said. “If you haven’t seen Arkansas play, that kid can stand in the pocket. Whether you got a linebacker rushing or a 6-6, 285-pound defensive end rushing, he’s gonna deliver the ball if he’s gotta take the hardest hit he’s ever taken. And he’ll do it for 75 plays in a row to put his team in the best position to win the game.”
Allen left the Razorbacks’ most recent contest — a blowout loss at Auburn — with swelling in his right knee, but he’s expected to return to the field against Florida this Saturday.
He’ll likely return to lead the Arkansas offense again next season, and will have a chance to catch Dick at No. 6 on the Hogs’ all-time passing list (5,856 yards).
Topping Dick’s overall resumé will be tough, though; During his time as a starter between 2005-2008, the Razorbacks took down a No. 1 team (LSU in ’07), won the West in ’06 and reached the Cotton Bowl following the ’07 season.
Asked to pick his favorite moment, Dick couldn’t do it.
“There were a couple games against LSU,” he said. “We beat them when they were No. 1. The last game that I played in — and one of the most fun games — was Tennessee when ‘College Gameday’ was there. All those little memories and flashes of things come right before you, and you’ve gotta try to put them all together, but those three games would certainly be ones that I think were some of the best games we played.”
He said he still watches every Razorbacks game, and will make at least one more appearance at Reynolds Stadium this season.
Adding that coach Bret Bielema has the team trending in the right direction, Dick said there’s a psychological approach within the program that he takes pride in.
“We forget about everything else,” he said (perhaps alluding to the crowded, so-called brutal SEC West), “and just worry about ourselves.”