State of the Hogs: The Plan

Arkansas doesn't play Ole Miss until next week, but here's some early thoughts on the matchup. For Hog fans, it's a big game.

It may be an open week, but Arkansas is thinking ahead to Ole Miss. Players admitted this week that they are already beginning to practice against Ole Miss formations. Fans have Ole Miss on the brain, too.

If Bobby Petrino tried to run clock last week in the second half after getting up on Auburn 28-14, fans are hopeful he'll put the hammer down when the Razorbacks make a trip to Oxford in their next outing.

It's no secret about the motivation behind those fans. It's not BCS implications. They want their Hogs to lay the wood to Houston Nutt, the under-fire coach at Ole Miss. The clock hasn't run long enough since Nutt took his money and fled to another SEC West member almost four years ago.

That may be on the minds of fans, but Nutt's name didn't come up in the 10 minutes of interviews Tuesday after practice. He wasn't the theme of a single question by a single reporter when I was present.

Could the Hogs have forgotten Nutt already? No. I'm guessing Tyler Wilson will never forget that he wasn't on Nutt's recruiting radar as a prep star at Greenwood High School. He was going to Tulsa. Zach Stadther wasn't on the radar of the former UA coach when he came out of North Little Rock. He was headed to Kansas.

The sad commentary on that stuff is that it's hard to imagine a UA team without either one of those fine SEC players. Both have proven their value -- in this system, this program. That's Bobby Petrino's program.

I'm asked many times to tell the difference between Petrino and Nutt. Well, the best thing I can say is that from what I know of Arkansas and what I know of Ole Miss, Petrino is a better fit at Arkansas. Never mind that he was raised in Montana and Nutt in Arkansas.

This state is singular in its state pride. It's all Razorbacks all the time. Petrino fits. He's all Razorback all of the time. He has proven that he loves the state, too. I point to his gift to the Arkansas Children's Hospital. I had a daughter spend some time there with wonderful results and I applauded Petrino's move. There is not a finer place anywhere than ACH.

I would have liked to have done something similar had the resources been mine, but I honestly can't tell you if I'd done it. He did. Wow.

Nutt fits better at a place that is confused whether they are Rebels, Bears or Black Bears. He had two chances to be a Razorback and botched both of them.

Do I wish harm on him? No, I don't. Not any more than I wished bad things on Keith Lee when he picked Memphis, or anyone else for not picking the Hogs, or leaving when they didn't get to play. I see players from other states pick the Hogs when they could have stayed home. So it works both ways.

Back to the differences between the two coaches, Petrino and Nutt. It's almost unfair to compare the two because I'd be saying this about almost any other coach in the SEC. Never have I seen a coach with such a passion to detail as Petrino. Never have I seen a coach that commits to the plan and never wavers.

He's organized beyond belief. He has a reason for everything that happens. There are no accidents, no surprises. I'd doubt there are very many scenarios that he hasn't thought about and planned around.

If he emptied a salt shaker into the palm of his hand and threw it into the air, he'd try to make a plan for each grain of the spice as it felt back to earth. Now that can't be done, but he'd try.

Conversely, Nutt is most likely winging it. Sometimes he wings it pretty good. If he's got a rare back, he can ride him.

But they've run out of unique talents at Ole Miss. There's been too much done by winging it. There are no Dexter McClusters or Darren McFaddens. Now he must rely on his system, his plan. Is there one?

The Rebels will probably get a pounding this week against Alabama. The Crimson Tide will likely treat them like Commodores.

That doesn't mean the Rebels won't be dangerous next week in Oxford. Sometimes winging it can work. We've seen that before. But I'll take the plan. I'll take the operation. I believe that sticking to the outline and impressive detail is the right way.

The plan doesn't minimize the importance of beating Ole Miss. It's a big game for the Hogs. They know that the plan includes taking the fight to the Rebels just like they did for the last two quarters against Texas A&M and again last week against Auburn.

As for Razorback fans, they want it to be for all four quarters.

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