Petrino Brings Spark to SEC

Birmingham, Ala.—Bobby Petrino's hiring at Arkansas bring a bit of fire to the Razorbacks' schedule this season with several coaching rivalries.

Arkansas has a tough three-game stretch early in the season with an old Southwest Conference rival in Texas, followed by Alabama and Florida. However, the following three weeks are sure to make headlines because of the coaching match-ups as the Hogs play Auburn, Kentucky and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks.

Petrino was offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2002 under Tommy Tuberville prior to taking over as head coach at Louisville. His name resurfaced on The Plains late in the 2003 season as a pair of Auburn trustees, the athletic director and school president flew to Louisville in hopes of hiring Petrino as Tuberville's potential replacement. The plan was foiled, but it sparked a controversy. At SEC Media Days on Friday, Tuberville was asked about his relationship with Petrino.

"This is a business," Tuberville said. "I understand that. We all get caught up in certain scenarios. That's just part of it. Bobby and I have talked many times since then. Since he's been head coach there, we've talked several times at meetings. It will be a lot of good talk between fans and media. But when it comes to the football teams that really matter in terms of winning or losing, there won't be any effect.

"You don't shy away from it," he added. "You talk about it. You get it out of the way, but you let your players know that it's not going to be any distraction whatsoever."

Arkansas travels to Auburn on Oct. 11.

Another rivalry will be renewed the following week with Rich Brooks at Kentucky. Petrino had the upper hand from 2003-2006 in the annual Bluegrass State battle.

"Well, he's obviously got a 4-0 record on me, whooped me up the head pretty good," Brooks joked of Petrino. "He had some very good teams at Louisville.

"I'm sure it's going to be an interesting game based on the fact that we came from behind in the fourth quarter against Arkansas last year. They come into Commonwealth Stadium this year."

The next week features a coaching match-up that Petrino isn't responsible for. It's one that he stumbled into by taking the job in Fayetteville. Former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt travels to Reynolds Razorback Stadium with his Ole Miss Rebels on Oct. 25.

"I've heard a lot at booster functions, a lot from the fans on their desire for it," Petrino explained. "But that's a long way for us. We have to play Western Illinois in the opener. We've got to get better as a football team.

"I don't think that our players understand that, you know, it's not us playing Coach Nutt." Petrino added. "It is our players against their players, University of Arkansas playing Ole Miss, which has always been a great rivalry."

Voted by the media, Arkansas was picked to finish last in the SEC West.

"I've always felt like preseason rankings are based on how you finish the previous year and then what you have coming back–returning starters and what stars you have coming back," Petrino stated. "Obviously when you lose that many guys into the NFL, our entire secondary and the great running backs, it wasn't unexpected. It certainly will help to motivate us.

"Each week," he continued, "the greatest thing about this conference you have to line up and play. Everybody's capable of beating anybody."

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