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Nick Saban owns Bobby Petrino.
I think he carries him around in his fancy straw hat.
Arkansas’s head coach, now in his fourth year with the Razorbacks, has flirted with big wins that would announce Arkansas’s ascension to the top of the SEC. But more often than not Petrino has been unable to get Arkansas over the proverbial hump, win the game that brands the Razorbacks as something other than a trendy upset pick in the league. Come September there sits the Alabama Crimson Tide, the winningest program in the South, and come September there sits another early season loss that knocks the Razorbacks from the national picture.
If it seems like we’ve seen it all before it’s because we have, Nick Saban owns Bobby Petrino like Steve Spurrier used to own Phil Fulmer.
Every year Tennessee fans geared up for the big game against Florida. Except…you guessed it, Steve Spurrier ruined our fall before fall could even officially begin. Spurrier won in every way imaginable. He scored 48 consecutive points in a rainstorm, he scored 35 straight points in Knoxville. Hell, at one point Steve Spurrier had outscored the Vols 83-0 over two seasons.
Now it’s the same with Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino.
Nick Saban even puts on his metaphorical Steve Spurrier visor for this game. How else to explain the first touchdown? A 37 yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal. Why wasn’t Arkansas in kick safe? It was a 54 yard field goal! What are the odds on any college kicker nailing a 54 yarder? Twenty percent? One in three at best. But instead of rolling with those odds Saban pulled a Lucy on Arkansas’s Charlie Brown and moved the ball at the last moment. Bang, just like that the Razorbacks were down a score.
Then, still later, out of a timeout on third down, Alabama’s DeQuan Menzie stepped in front of a Tyler Wilson pass, popped it up in the air, and sprinted 25 yards for a touchdown that made the score 17-7.
But the Razorbacks still had a chance, right?
The Arkansas defense came out of the locker room in an early Halloween costume, dressed as a Big 12 defense.
How else to explain Marquis Maze’s play of the year 83 yard punt return? A play where he cut back against the grain three different times. One final cut — the deepest cut of all, contrary to the song, is the last — at the five yard line. A cut so diabolical, x-box strong and intrepid that it violated Constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. A cut that if you were playing video games would have led you to turn off the game system and fight your opponent. A cut that left the state of Arkansas more disappointed than when Houston Nutt still patrolled the sideline. (Okay, not that bad, but close).
This return made it 24-7 and so bedazzled the Razorback defense that three plays later they failed to cover Trent Richardson on a screen pass. And just like that it was 31-7 and this game was over.
This would not be Petrino/Fulmer’s 1998 victory over Florida.
It’s tougher now for Arkansas though because back then there was no legitimate rival for Florida or Tennessee. The Vols were better for longer than Arkansas has been but they really didn’t lose to anyone else. Tennessee had better players than Arkansas does too. So the Vols were better against weaker opponents. It helped to ease the pain of the September loss. No longer. Now Arkansas has to beat Alabama, then it has to beat Auburn, then it has to beat LSU. Then…you get the picture. Except every time the Razorbacks get a chance to make a statement, they lose.
Yes, there was last year’s win over LSU that propelled the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl, but Arkansas “lost” on the big stage. (Don’t get me started on the decision to allow Ohio State’s admitted cheaters to play). Last year’s Alabama game in Fayetteville was supposed to be the game that stamped the Hogs as legitimate SEC contenders.
Instead Arkansas choked away a 20-7 late second half lead en route to a 24-20 loss that left Arkansas fans throwing their Razorback hats into the Mississippi River. But at least that game was competitive. The Hogs rolled in to Tuscaloosa at 3-0 with a chance to stun the nation and upset the Crimson Tide with a national television audience watching on CBS.
Instead it was 38-14 by the end of the third quarter and with nine minutes left in the game I made the decision to bail and drive back to Nashville to see the LSU at West Virginia game on television.
Seriously, I’d rather watch LSU on television than Arkansas in person.
It’s already come to this, every game in the SEC is a prelude to that November 5th game between LSU and Alabama at this same venue. And right now it’s an insult that neither Alabama nor LSU is the number one team in the nation. Because, and you can take this to the bank, Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the nation this year. Either one of these teams would beat Oklahoma on a neutral field. And eventually one of them will. It’s going to be just like 2003 and 2007 when other undefeated, overrated Oklahoma teams rolled into the title game and got whipped by SEC defenses.
In the meantime, how about a look at Bobby Petrino’s record in his first 25 SEC games with the Hogs? 11-14.
While the Razorbacks may have a good season this year, it’s plain to pretty much anyone that they are not on the same level as Alabama.
Instead the Hogs remain SEC pretenders and Bobby Petrino’s high powered offense has zero hogpower as soon as Nick Saban stands on the opposing sideline.
Maybe next year Bobby Petrino will leave another note for his team in the locker room when it comes time to play Alabama: “Gone fishing, good luck boys.”
Until then, I’ll see y’all back in Tuscaloosa for the national title game against LSU on November 5th. I can’t wait.