By: Flint Harris
Bret Bielema and then fiancee, now wife, Jennifer Hielsberg, celebrate Wisconsin’s win in the Big Ten Championship in December 2011. Photo from M.P. King
Arkansas is set to introduce former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema (Bee-La-Muh) Wednesday as new head coach at 4pm (watch it here). I came up with reasons why I like the move and why I do not like the move. Let’s start with the positives:
1. Rose Bowls
I know it is the Big 10 and us SEC folk think little of them (deep down we know they are slightly better than we give them credit for), but three Rose Bowls in a row is rather impressive. Now, TCU and Oregon both won, and Stanford is a 6.5 point favorite in the upcoming game, but y’all remember how much fun going to the Sugar Bowl was? Me too. I’d love for those to start being part of my New Year’s tradition and eventually the wins would come.
Bielema was 68-24 in seven years at Wisconsin, which is 9.7 wins a year in a good conference with about 3.5 losses per year. He won at least 10 games in four of his seven seasons. One must go back 23 years to accumulate four 10-win seasons for Arkansas.
3. 7 Straight Bowl Games
Bielema is consistent. In his first season his team beat Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl despite getting outrushed 202 to -5. The Badgers continued to a bowl game every year under Bielema with appearances in three Rose Bowls, one Outback Bowl, one Capital One Bowl, and two Champs Sports bowls. The Hogs has missed bowl games twice in the last five seasons.
4. Running the ball and stopping the run
The Hogs were dead last in the SEC in rushing in 2012 with 118 yards per game. The top 5 rushing teams in the SEC are Texas A&M, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and LSU. Lookie there…all of those teams are ranked in the Top 10 in the final polls. Wisconsin finished third in the Big 10 in rushing with 237 yards and 12th nationally. Wisconsin averaged 594 rushes per season the last three seasons. The Hogs averaged 400 rushes per year. I know the Arkansas offense has been fun to watch the past few years, but winning is the most fun. Run the ball and stop the run!
Russell Wilson’s transfer bailed out Wisconsin in 2011 when the Badgers did not have a quality QB. Photo from US Presswire
Some causes for concern…
1. 3-star U
Bielema’s last three full recruiting classes were ranked 88th (holy smokes!), 40th, and 56th. And we thought Petrino wasn’t up to par in recruiting. This is coming off great success on the field for the Badgers. I have longed called Arkansas 3-star U because for the most part we get a bunch of 3-star recruits and either coach them up (Petrino) or don’t (John L, Houston).
2. Urban Meyer
Meyer won 2 nationally titles in the SEC. He then went to an Ohio State on probation and promptly went 12-0. It worries me when a Big 10 guy comes to the SEC the results will be the opposite. Sunshine pump of the day is Nick Saban came from Michigan State to LSU. That worked out.
3. Urban Meyer-Part 2
Bielema got agitated Meyer continued to pursue high school players verbally committed to other Big 10 schools. Listen BB, that is common practice in the SEC. So, buck up.
4. SEC Speed
The most obvious concern is a coach from the Big 10 who also played in the Big 10 finding top end SEC speed and playing at SEC speed. We always make fun of the slow Big 10. Bielema is probably going to find some good speed on this roster, but Arkansas needs more speed throughout the roster and will have to play faster.
I believe the absolute value of the positives is greater than those of the negatives. However, the fact that I have as many negatives as positives is the reason I like this hire and do not love it.
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