By JIM ENGSTER | President, Tiger Rag Magazine
When 42-year-old Bret Bielema arrived in Fayetteville five years ago, he had posted a 68-24 overall record in seven years at Wisconsin to go with two Big Ten championships and a pair of Rose Bowl appearances. The last trip for Bielema’s Badgers to Pasadena was a classic on Jan. 1, 2012, a 45-38 loss to Oregon.
A fellow named Russell Wilson was the Wisconsin quarterback. Bielema was hailed as a genius when Wilson, who transferred from North Carolina State, capped his senior season by completing 72-percent of his passes with 33 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
When 48-year-old Nick Saban arrived in Baton Rouge 18 years ago, he had posted a 34-24-1 record in five years at Michigan State with no Big Ten titles and three bowl defeats by a combined margin of 85 points.
On paper, Bielema in 2012 at Arkansas was a superior hire to Saban at LSU in 1999.
Saban is regarded as the best coach in the history of the college game. Bielema is likely out of a job in few weeks.
Bielema enters Saturday’s 11 a.m. brunch for the Bengals with the shakiest two-game winning streak in the country. The Hogs have won the last two weeks with thrilling comebacks against Ole Miss, 38-37 at Oxford, and against Coastal Carolina, 39-38 at Fayetteville.
Coastal Carolina rolled into Razorback Country with a seven-game losing streak, including a 51-17 setback to the best team in Arkansas this season, Arkansas State.
The University of Arkansas has featured some highly decorated coaches in its storied gridiron history. Three coaches of the Hogs in the modern era won national titles in Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz (Notre Dame) and Danny Ford (Clemson). Arkansas assistant coaches Barry Switzer (Oklahoma), Jimmy Johnson (Miami) and Johnny Majors (Pittsburgh) also captured NCAA titles after taking head coaching posts.
And then there was Bobby Petrino, who finished fifth in the nation before he got his butt fired and his neck nearly broken in an unfortunate motorcycle escapade with his mistress on April 1, 2012. Pride cometh before the fall, and this time a gifted coach saw his career careen down a hilly highway to near oblivion.
The Razorbacks have not recovered from Petrino’s demise, and the program is now in its worse shape since Broyles moved from Missouri to Arkansas in 1958.
Bielma’s hope to preserve his job rests with beating LSU. It seems unlikely considering how well LSU has played the past four weeks and how poorly Arkansas has performed all season. LSU has outscored four foes by just 45 points in previous dates at Tiger Stadium this season, but the odds are strong the Tigers will devour the Porkers. LSU has been installed as a 16-point favorite.
Look for the charismatic Bielema to stir his troops into playing their best, but LSU should rout the Razorbacks with relative ease. The talent gap is too extreme for the Hogs to score an upset at Tiger Stadium as they did in 2015 when Bielema’s bunch battered Les Miles and Co. in a 31-14 victory.
Bielema is destined to exit Arkansas a rich man with an eight-figure buy-out clause. And LSU’s opponents after the Hogs, Tennessee and Texas A@M, have all but fired their coaches, Butch Jones and Kevin Sumlin. So a 9-3 regular season is a good bet for Ed Orgeron.
The SEC is in flux with Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A@M, Ole Miss and possibly Mississippi State (Dan Mullen may move elsewhere voluntarily) in the market for new leaders for 2018.
It may be time for the return for the Ozark Mountain daredevil.
Where have you gone, Bobby Petrino?
Doug Pederson poised to return Eagles to Super Bowl
The Philadelphia Eagles are 8-1 and favored to advance to the Super Bowl. Their head coach is former Northeast Louisiana University (now ULM) quarterback Doug Pederson, who was head coach at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport from 2005-2008 before Andy Reid made him an assistant with the Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
To advance from anonymity in the prep ranks in Shreveport to a possible NFL championship in nine years is a spectacular rise for Pederson. He lasted 14 years in the NFL as a reserve quarterback, compiling modest statistics of 12 career touchdowns and 2,762 passing yards.
Pederson was a member of the 1987 NLU 1AA national title team coached by Pat Collins. The starting quarterback in ‘87 for the Indians (now Warhawks) was Stan Humphries, who transferred to Monroe from LSU.
Super Bowl 52 is slated in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 2018, four days after Pederson celebrates his 50th birthday.
Ben Simmons shows why he was drafted first in 2016 NBA Draft
It took a year, but former LSU basketball player Ben Simmons has burst onto the NBA scene with numbers worthy of the top player selected. After missing last year with a foot injury, Simmons is the toast of the City of Brotherly Love through nine games. The Philadelphia 76ers are playing him at point guard. Simmons is averaging 18 points, ten rebounds and eight assists per game.
Bregman and Nola are bona fide MLB stars
Alex Bregman is a world champion in his first full season after the Houston Astros captured their first World Series crown in a seven-game shootout with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bregman batted .233 with two homers in the Fall Classic and is on the brink of a break-out year next season in Houston.
Former Bregman LSU teammate, Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola, could win the Cy Young Award in 2018 if he stays healthy. Nola is that good and is poised to join Pederson and Simmons as a Louisiana transplant revered by the notoriously tough fans of Philly.
The Phillies have hired the most fit manager or coach in professional sports. Every professional or college coach with a sloppy waistline should take some lessons from Gabe Kapler. The 42-year-old skipper is called the Hebrew Hammer, and this is what a leader of men should look like.