Arkansas coach Bret Bielema pointed out Wednesday that Arkansas is 11-4 in its last 15 games. It’s the second-best overall record in the SEC. Only Alabama has been better in that span.
The message was coolly received, it appears, by a good chunk of the fan base and I can understand why.
Ever the master marketer, Bielema is pointing to the Razorbacks’ recent success as a means to show both how far the program has come since he arrived and provide some optimism to suggest the Arkansas will turn things around.
But coming off a 53-point drubbing to Gus Malzahn, no less, a review of the past isn’t what a lot people want to hear. “How is this getting fixed?” is the question top of mind. It’s coincidental, too, a coach would point to the past when week after week, after a win or a loss, the common refrain among coaches is players, “We don’t dwell on it” or “On to the next one.”
Fair or not, we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. In this case, lately means last time out, not the last 15 games. Bielema’s comment was honest and positive and made total sense. It just seems to have missed the mark with some.
— Michael Gower (@MichaelGower11) October 26, 2016
— Lew Harper (@Harper1Lew) October 26, 2016
— DarthHoggy (@DarthHoggy) October 26, 2016
And always-popular simple GIF response to the comment.
— Billy Ray (@parrotheadpote) October 26, 2016
To be fair, Twitter is hardly representative of entire fan base. And Bielema has his defenders, too, including a handful who were at the presser.
@SportsTalkwBo anyone that says it's time to fire Bret is short sighted & has no appreciation for where he's brot us since motorcycle man.
— Matthew Allen (@aboutmrallen) October 26, 2016
@SportsTalkwBo Fake fans know nothing about the sport. Just live to complain. I cheer on my teams. It's called being a fan. Let the hate go.
— William F. Buckley (@USAConserv1776) October 26, 2016
— Dudley E. Dawson (@Dedsports) October 26, 2016
Opinions fly after a game like that, eh?
“On to the next one.”
So, when is it not a good time?
Bye weeks never seem to come at bad times.
Coming off a big win? “We can carry this momentum into the bye week, get fresh, healthy and come out the other end even better.”
Playing middling ball? “Good time for a break. We can gather ourselves, tweak a few things, make some adjustments.”
Defeated by 53 last time out? “It obviously comes at a good time for us.”
That last one is a real quote from Bielema during his weekly availability with the press. He isn’t wrong, either. It’s just throwaway.
While some of us in the media take miniature vacations during bye weeks — I wish I could — college football coaches, not so much. Arkansas coaches, especially this year, not at all. The Razorbacks find themselves at a crossroads with two-thirds of the season remaining. On one hand the team is 5-3, pretty close to what was expected and a game better than I personally had them at this point when I predicted back in August. On the other, they’re just 1-3 in the SEC, a game worse than I had and two worse than lots of others did.
Things are not dire in Fayetteville, but the Auburn loss, days later, still casts a long shadow. And the bye week only prolongs the suffering for lots of folks. Rawleigh Williams III, Arkansas’ sophomore running back, was torn on whether the bye week came at a good time.
“We have a lot of guys dinged up, so I think we’ll be healthier going on to the second half of the season than we are right now,” Williams III said. “But taking a loss like that, we’re ready to get that taste out of our mouths.”
However it works out, preparation for Game 9 is underway now and the healing process can begin.
Arkansas is in the top 25! Just not *that* one
First off, I love where I live. Northwest Arkansas is the perfect fit for me and my family. Hell, we moved *back* here specifically to live here.
Now, that being said, Fayetteville is not the best city in the SEC. It is the best to live, perhaps, as its low cost-of-living, good housing market, major businesses and small-city feel all combine to make an excellent town. But let’s be real here, SEC folks aren’t up and moving to a different SEC city.
What they do instead is visit. They come to town for a day or two, take in some local sites and eating establishments, watch the game and move on.
And for those purposes, the more realistic and frequent ones, the better way to rank is by simple enjoyment of the city, not taxes and housing costs and all that.
By the way — I bring all this up because Fayetteville, deservedly, checked in to the top 25 in Forbes’ ‘Best Places for Business and Careers‘ list. The best city in America, Denver, was No. 1.
Without further ado, these are the best cities in the SEC. In order:
1. Athens, Ga.
This is the best college town in the country. It isn’t the best city. It isn’t the best city with a college. Athens is the perfect mix of small-town/college/city, though, with plenty to do and see. Plus, REM and B-52s, man.
2. Nashville, Tenn.
One of my top-10 favorite cities overall. In most other power 5 conferences, it’s No. 1 (not the PAC 12, though).
4. Baton Rouge, La.
Underrated. Bigger than it seems, but also pretty spread out, which is a drawback. But, boy, that food.
5. Knoxville, Tenn.
The most picturesque by far. My preference for Asheville, N.C., Knoxville’s neighbor, is unfair to put as a negative to Knoxville, but I can’t help it.
6. Columbia, S.C.
Columbia doesn’t get the love Charleston does, but it’s a solid town with some cool state-capital-type stuff, if you’re a history nerd like me.
7. Lexington, Ky.
Also bigger than it seems, Lexington is fun. A little dull for a city its size, though.
8. Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Tuscaloosa is awesome on a game day. Pretty fun even when not. But it’s also a bit limited. More to do up the road in Birmingham.
9. College Station, Texas
Northgate is a great part of the city. Used to not be so hot on this town until a former roommate took me down there for a visit and showed me “the cool stuff.”
10. Columbia, Mo.
The other Columbia capital is superior. The Missouri one is plain.
11. Auburn, Ala.
Some neat college-related stuff. Not much else going on.
12. Oxford, Miss.
Insanely small, but earns bonus points for having an insanely beautiful campus.
13. Gainesville, Fla.
I hate Florida. Not the school or team. But the state. Sorry.
14. Starkville, Miss.
Was there any doubt?
Can hear arguments of Knoxville and Columbia, S.C., ahead of Baton Rouge, but those top 3 are locks. So are the bottom four.
A pretty light news week continued Wednesday:
- Bielema spoke specifically on the Razorbacks’ bye-week plans Wednesday and our Jason Kersey wrote a bit about them.
- He and Trent Shadid continued their unit-by-unit review, too, taking a look at the team’s tight ends and offensive line.
- The defense, which has drawn the most ire since the Auburn game, may be seeing some personnel changes soon, write WholeHogSports’ Jimmy Carter.
Basketball season starts — sort of — Friday night. Central Missouri will visit Bud Walton Arena to face the Razorbacks in Arkansas’ first of two exhibition games.
Arkansas is breaking in seven new guys — eight if you count the injured RJ Glasper, who is likely to redshirt after being injured in practice earlier this month — to the roster with only five carryovers from last season. Two of those old hats, Moses Kingsley and Dusty Hannahs, are among the best players in the SEC, though, and are expected to slide back into their old familiar starting roles. As to who will be next to them, coach Mike Anderson hasn’t made a determination.
“It’ll probably be right before the game,” Anderson said as to when he’ll decide. “I’ve probably got about eight guys right now in mind. We’ll see what takes place on Friday.”
Don’t expect an upset, despite Central Missouri being the Division II national champions back in 2014. Their coach at the time was current Missouri coach Kim Anderson. Plus, Arkansas hasn’t lost an exhibition since 2003.
.@RazorbackMBB has won 24 consecutive exhibition games. Last loss was to the EA Sports Midwest All Stars in BWA (76-71) on 11/14/2003.
— HogStats.com (@HogStats) October 26, 2016
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas!
This one was so out-there, we wrote about it on SEC Country.
The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs was the first to report a state employee used state funds to buy herself Razorbacks tickets and … a tuxedo for her dog.
The former administrative assistant for the county judge was arrested Tuesday morning on six felony counts alleging fraudulent use of the county’s credit card, including personal purchases for items ranging from Arkansas Razorback tickets to a tuxedo for her dog.