Arkansas reportedly has interest in Bo Pelini. This kind of fodder is no more surprising than Nebraska rallying from 14 down in the second half. Rumors swirl this time of year. Some are legit, most are not. This one probably isn’t.
But of all the jobs expected to open this winter, Arkansas makes the most sense if Pelini wanted to leave Nebraska.
Here’s 5 reasons Bo might be interested in Arkansas:
– He has a new boss, Shawn Eichorst. You want to make any head coach nervous? Put a stranger in the A.D. chair. Pelini does know the Arkansas A.D., at least as an acquaintance. Jeff Long, who was at Pittsburgh prior to Arkansas, interviewed Bo for the open Pitt job after the 2004 season. Long gave it to Dave Wannstedt.
– If Pelini wins a Big Ten championship, it’s a natural time to leave. He will feel as if he’d accomplished what he set out to do. He would be able to look back on his time in Lincoln as a success. I think that’s important to any young high-achiever. I’ve always felt it’s more likely that Bo would leave after a good year than after a frustrating one.
– The SEC may be tougher, but it’s still considered the elite coaching league in the country. The closest thing to the NFL. And the money is probably better. It’s not crazy to think Arkansas might offer its next coach $4-5 million.
– Bo’s personality isn’t for everybody. Over time, his hard edges tend to wear on some fans. He burns the occasional bridge. He knows it. A man like that sometimes feels the need for a fresh start.
– One of the biggest challenges for Pelini in Lincoln has been recruiting. He’s struggled to get difference-makers to leave the Sun Belt. That’s not unique to him; Nebraska is a long way from fertile recruiting ground. Arkansas is much closer. He could fill his roster without leaving Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Here’s 5 reasons Arkansas might be interested in Bo:
– Pelini understands what it’s like to work in the SEC. He also knows what it’s like to be head coach at a top-20 program. Doesn’t mean he enjoys it; in fact, he has often complained about the attention. But at least he has experience in the pressure cooker. Many of the hot coaching names — Kirby Smart, Gus Malzahn, Charlie Strong, Willie Taggert, etc. — do not.
– He’s clean. Pelini’s track record with players, both in the classroom and on the police blotter, is strong. He may not conduct himself perfectly on the sideline, but he seems to take family seriously. Coming off the Bobby Petrino controversy, that will mean something at Arkansas.
– Remember, schools often want the opposite of what they just had. Petrino was offense; Bo is defense. Even better, Arkansas fans witnessed Pelini’s work first-hand at LSU. Yes, Darren McFadden and the Hogs rolled up 50 points in a triple-overtime upset of LSU in 2007, but Bo still led a national-championship defense. Not many can say that.
– His wear-it-on-your-sleeve intensity fits the SEC culture. Down there, they don’t care about sticking fingers in officials’ faces. Bulging neck veins are a sign of strength, not weakness. They’d rather have a Nick Saban than a Tony Dungy.
– Pelini isn’t a home-run hire in the SEC — not even if he goes 11-2 this year. But he is the head coach at Nebraska. Anytime an A.D. can poach a coach from one of the five winningest programs in college football history, he can stick out his chest. Pelini’s record at NU isn’t spectacular, but he has won nine games every season.
Having said all that, both sides also have plenty of reasons NOT to be interested. Pelini has flaws, just as the Hogs do. Nebraska is one of the three best programs in the Big Ten. Arkansas isn’t even top 3 in its own division. Still, it’s a situation worth paying attention to.
>> In September, I concocted a defensive statistic called “Points per possession.” The reason: Giving up 30 points to Wisconsin isn’t the same as giving up 30 points to Oregon. One plays at a slow tempo — 10-15 possessions a game. The other plays at a fast tempo — 15-20 possessions a game. So how do you measure defensive performances? I like points per possession.
Nebraska’s PPP averages the past three seasons look like this:
Two months ago, I said if the Blackshirts could get under 1.5, they were gonna win a lot of games. With two regular-season games left, they’re at 1.62. They might just get there with Minnesota and Iowa coming up.
For the record, these are the defense’s best three and worst three performances of the season, based on points per possession.
— Ohio State 3.8
— Wisconsin 2.1
— UCLA 2.0
— Idaho State 0.4
— Arkansas State 0.5
— Michigan 0.8
>> You know all about the importance of turnover margin. Almost every coach will say it’s the No. 1 factor in deciding games. So how weird is this: Iowa, 4-6 this season, is plus-11 in turnovers, best in the Big Ten.
Nebraska, 8-2, is last in the league at minus-8. The Hawkeyes are gonna need to be plus-3 or plus-4 to beat Nebraska on Nov. 23.
>> Who’s the ideal rose Bowl opponent for the Big Ten: Notre Dame or Oklahoma? The ESPN bloggers discuss. I mentioned Monday that I would break down potential Rose Bowl opponents for Nebraska. Look for that Friday.
>> Grantland hits college football’s new phenomenon, Johnny Manziel.
>> Les Miles says the SEC champion should go to the national title game — “until somebody proves that the winner of this league is not the nation’s best team.” You’re gonna hear a lot more comments like that from SEC coaches and media over the next month.
>> The NCAA is removing New Jersey from the college basketball host rotation because the state legalized sports betting. Columnist Steve Politi says it’s the definition of hypocrisy.
>> Well, I suppose you give Matt Slauson credit for honesty. But was it really wise to trash Tim Tebow?
>> Another Marlins fire sale? Bud Selig should contract their franchise. From the Bluejays standpoint, on the other hand, it’s a coup. They’re the new front runner in the AL East, a division that could have five of the best 8-9 teams in the entire American League.
>> Florida lineman Sharrif Floyd’s fascinating story exposes an NCAA loophole.
>> The Wall Street Journal often finds fresh ways to cover sports. How ’bout studying NFL teams’ sleep schedules? Fun read.
>> Last night was a heckuva night for college basketball. Duke-Kentucky and Kansas-Michigan State didn’t mean much, but the games were great entertainment. In beating KU, Michigan State didn’t look like the fourth-best team in the Big Ten.
The big story from the nightcap was John Calipari’s halftime interview. We all know Duke players flop harder than Adam Sandler movies (Full disclosure: I’m not a Blue Devil fan). But I was surprised to hear John Calipari actually say so.
After the game, Calipari blew it off: “What did I say? It was a joke. You guys at Duke can take a joke, right? Sheesh.” Kentucky got beat pretty bad. Doesn’t mean Calipari’s team won’t be ready for March. But this isn’t going to be 2011-12 again.
>> Remember that point guard from South Sioux City who escaped to be a Hawkeye? Mike Gesell didn’t waste any time making a difference at Iowa. Meanwhile, at Omaha Central this morning, Akoy Agau signed with Louisville. As a hoops fan, it’s hard to see good talent like Gesell and Agau leave. It’s on Greg McDermott and Tim Miles to change that.
>> Finally, Creighton-UAB tonight at CenturyLink. I’ll say McDermott — Doug, that is — puts up 31.