1. Thoughts on this whole Bielema vs Malzahn deal? Are we going to have to live with it forever?
Graham: This is an underrated rivalry between two fanbases that do not like each other. Bielema and Malzahn are just the newest chapter in a reasonably short book.
Kevin: I could do without it. Arkansas always seems to have enough drama going on already. Our head coach needs to focus on coaching our guys and take any complaints he has about Gus to Mike Slive, not the media or twitter. I outgrew wanting to watch this type of he said/he said thing when I stopped watching Mid-South Wrestling back when I was ten or twelve.
Drew: It makes for an interesting story line in the media, so we're going to hear about it until it's not interesting anymore. Bret's got too much bluster to back down, and Malzahn's picked up quite a few gamesmanship tactics from Hootie Dale, it seems.
Scottie: I think it's just a bunch of nonsense between two guys who have different offensive philosophies. But don't you think it's funny Bielema said following Saturday's game that the media reads too much into their back-and-forth this season, then he ever-so obviously ran the swinging gate play and stirred up more talk? He was doing some major trolling. Then (I believe) Malzahn took it a step further with the "injury" following the trick play. Their jabbing at one another makes for interesting conversation, that's for sure. It's kind of humorous.
Randy: The Bielema vs. Malzahn story line started very slowly at SEC media days. Gus gave it a tremendous push with his blatant digs last weekend. The whole team had their noses rubbed in it. Malzahn was making fun of us. He clearly cares a lot more than we do.
Adam: Hey, when your team's not winning is always the main storyline going into a game, why not change it up a bit? Give me more.
Doc: I liked it when Arkansas ran the swinging gate successfully followed immediately by Swain Swoon because in that moment it felt like Bielema regained the upper-hand in this thing. But normally, Bielema's the butt of most of the jokes, and I don't like that. Once Bielema wins a few games I'll support him saying more of whatever he wants.
2. What, if any, are this team's issues that can be fixed this year? Or are we resigned to the idea that this team isn't going to get much better until next year?
Drew: As much as I hate to say it, I don't think there's a quick-fix for anything. So far, I don't get the feeling that the team has quit on Bielema, but there's just too many holes (in terms of talent, depth, and fundamentals) in too many places to expect a quick turn-around over the next 3 weeks.
Graham: This team just isn't going to be any good. In the same mindset that Doc wrote in his column for Sporting Life Arkansas on how he watched the Auburn game, now we just need to have fun. I wonder if this team will win another game this season. Nine straight is not how to end a season.
Randy: Even the coaches have gone bonkers. As John McClain says, bad teams make bad plays that ensure the losing continues. My life will be better when I can no longer look at the Hogs, declare "This is going to fail," and always be right.
Adam: A.J. Derby won't play anymore. Oh, wait. Brandon Allen might jam his thumb. With only three games left, I'm not looking for much improvement in one month's time. Oh God, only one month left? I guess it's a blessing in disguise.
Kevin: I am resigned. I expect maybe a few flashes of good before the season ends. But a lasting shower of it, not likely with this bunch. Would love to be wrong!
Scottie: There's no fixing the secondary or the linebacking corps this season. Those are the biggest issues. We just have to hope and pray someone or a couple of someones can come in next season and make a difference. This team won't get much better this year, but offensively, I like the idea of having AC3, Jonathan Williams, Keon Hatcher, and Hunter Henry for next season. Give them the remainder of this season, an offseason of work, and we'll have a solid core for next season, I believe.
Doc: Unless Arkansas can find a way to pull out a win from these last three games, I'm much more concerned about recruiting for the future right now than I am with the 2013 football team. I'll enjoy the games just for the sake of enjoying the games, but 2014 is the bigger focus right now.
3. Brandon Allen hasn't completed the majority of his passes in any game since he hurt his shoulder. Are the play-callers not calling enough high-percentage passes, is he making that many bad decisions on the field, are the receivers just too bad, or all of the above? Or something else?
Randy: All I know is I am tired of watching Allen throw low-percentage passes when it would be really nice to gain even a few yards. Who is to blame? No idea. It is true that he misses many throws because he retreats frantically from center to escape the rush (whether it's there or not), then reaches the moment he decides he must heave the ball - which he does no matter what position his body is in. See No. 2.
Graham: I feel like most of the troubles in the passing game have to fall on the injured shoulders of Brandon Allen. I recall two sure touchdown passes this weekend he just missed. Of course, there is no other option to turn to for the rest of the season. I will give Allen his props though for after getting cleated on the first drive and coming back.
Drew: It's a confluence of so many things. A young quarterback, who makes young quarterback mistakes, trying to do too much with stone-handed receivers. 4th-and-goal at the 1 yard line showed that we can't just run it indiscriminately when our opponent knows it's coming, so I expect we'll continue to see Brandon throwing 20 times per game, for better or worse.
Scottie: I just don't think these receivers are very good at finding openings in defenses or getting open at all, for that matter. And most of the time, that leads to BA rolling to his right, and throwing the ball away. You'll notice defenses don't even fall for the screen pass anymore because there is no downfield threat and guys can't get open. Most of Allen's incompletions are a result of overall bad reads, balls sailing on him, and receivers not getting open.
Kevin: I say all of the above. I would add that the competition also stepped up after the Southern Miss. game. And another point, did we catch something from them? Play a team with a long losing streak and you get it yourself? In case you are wondering, Southern Miss. still hasn't broken their losing streak. They get Skippy Holtz and LA Tech this coming weekend. Maybe they need to break their streak in order for us to break ours? In that case, Go Golden Eagles! Get a win down in Ruston.
Doc: The whole offense is just awful. Everything we get out of the passing game feels completely forced. Even swing and screen passes are struggles. A better question may be if we're calling enough rushing plays. Collins hasn't had 20 carries in a game since Southern Miss.
Adam: All of the above, but I lean mainly towards Brandon Allen. Why does the media STILL not place blame on this kid? Are his parents paying off people? I can't think of the last time a sub-par player got so many outs with the media. He's just not that good. Forget about his high school days. Base your opinion on his current output. The end.
4. So far this season, when Arkansas has played a decent game, they've followed it up with lackluster performances. Will that continue or do you believe the team will build on positive momentum for once?
Drew: Wait, are we calling what happened on Saturday a "decent game?"
Kevin: I guess we are calling the Auburn game a decent game? Well, yeah, comparatively, it is I suppose.
Doc: Okay, that's on me. By "decent" I meant "hey, we didn't give up 52 straight points!"
Kevin: I just don't know if that positive flash we saw in the second half is enough for them to build upon. We still lost in the end. Maybe we'll lose a little better next week in Oxford? And just maybe come Miss. State time we'll win in Little Rock? If they win in Oxford, I think it will be built upon positive momentum they create during the game itself. SO here is hoping for a good start.
Randy: Ever since Arkansas played a decent game against Louisiana, all we have seen are lackluster performances. Auburn was especially disheartening, because the opponent would have been beatable, were the Arkansas offense not broken.
Scottie: I don't know if the Auburn loss gave us any positive momentum. Could it just be we're all ecstatic because we scored for the first time in three weeks?
Adam: I tend to look at history. I'm not expecting some amazing turnaround after our somewhat non-embarrassing showing against Auburn.
5. What was your reaction to the story about Jeff Long interviewing at Texas?
Graham: If there's anything we've seen over the last few years with the demise of the BCS and watching Mark Emmert trying to save the NCAA, it is that college sports is a business. And like most businesses, the better you are, the bigger, more prominent companies are going to take notice as is the case here. As much as we don't want to admit it, the Texas AD job could be the best AD job in the country and more high-profile than his current position. For that, I can't blame him. He's really good at what he does, and it won't surprise me if he isn't in Fayetteville forever.
Adam: Where there's smoke, there's fire. When you have to defend it in more than 140 characters, you're caught. Yes, if he was offered, he would probably be stupid not to have taken it. In real life, I would be happy for him. But this is football. If he would've left, he's dead to me and a traitor. FOOTBALL IS REALER THAN REAL LIFE! Snap into a Slim-Jim, BROTHER!
Kevin: I sure wish I had Bobby Petrino working for me, so I could fire him and become the toast of the college football world. Seriously, it didn't surprise me. With his new chairmanship of the selection committee and his Bobby Petrino scalp, I imagine his name will come up time and time again. And if he moves on to another position, then I will thank him for his efforts here and wish him the best. No real emotional attachment to him, as it should be. I am a Razorback fan first and foremost, not a coach fan, not an AD fan.
Randy: If he had a shot at that job, he should have taken it. Probably had to do a public turndown to save face. No way he would have been the first one to say no. Things are only going to get more difficult for him at Arkansas.
Scottie: It didn't really surprise me UT would be interested in him. Long is so highly respected and well-liked across the country I'm not shocked he's being considered for the job. But over the last year and a half, he's done so much for Arkansas athletics it's hard to imagine him just up and leaving Arkansas. I'll take his word for it that he's not going anywhere, though.
Drew: Jeff Long has done a great job as AD; that's undisputable. If he were to end up taking the Texas job, expect Houston Nutt to insinuate himself into the conversation for the AD job immediately. Oh God, can you imagine?
Doc: All of you answered that question before the story broke about Long getting a raise from UA to stay in Fayetteville.
I understand that this is how sports business works. But this left a bad taste in my mouth. It made it look like UA had some sort of extra pool of cash to give out quickly and easily when necessary, but will still do everything they can to get fans to spend as much as possible on any little thing. If I donate for the basketball practice facility, I'd like to know it's going to that and not to the next "Jeff Long says NO to somebody" fund. A lot of schools will probably want the selection committee chair to be their AD. Stanford expressed interest last year. He got close to a 20% raise last year. This one was 10% (not including the extra $100k raise he gets next July). It just doesn't feel good to me.