Arkansas and Tennessee are both 2-3, but it’s anyone’s guess which team is in worse shape.
Yes, Arkansas beat Tennessee, 24-20, in Knoxville this past weekend, but the Razorbacks entered the day having lost three straight, including embarrassing home losses to Toledo and Texas Tech. Tennessee, meanwhile, could be 5-0 but is apparently allergic to holding two-score leads.
Which program is in worse shape: Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks, or Butch Jones and the Vols?
“I’d say Butch Jones and the Vols,” CBS Sports Networks’ Inside College Football host Adam Zucker said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Arkansas obviously has to deal with Alabama this week, who they only lost to by one point last year. Arkansas knows who they are. They’re getting back to who they are. They have a new offensive coordinator this year and I think early on they got away from their core. Brandon Allen threw like 50-something times in the game against Toledo where they lost, and his red-zone performance was atrocious. They lost Jonathan Williams, the better of their two 1,000-yard running backs. They lost (wide receiver) Keon Hatcher. They’ve had a ton of injuries. None of that’s an excuse, but they’re getting back to who they are. They took a Texas A&M team to overtime – and A&M’s got as good a shot at the national title as anybody right now.”
Zucker, it is worth noting, picked Arkansas to beat Tennessee this past weekend – because he felt “like those guys will pin their ears back and finish the job.”
The Vols – who have squandered leads against Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas – have not.
“Tennessee has lost three games in which they led by 13 or more this year,” Zucker began. “Two of them were at home. That’s three in five games. They had one game where they blew a 13-point lead or more in the previous 10 years and lost. So there’s a finish-the-job problem. It seems like the game plan is there, but they don’t make any adjustments. It’s crazy. They got Jalen Hurd, who should be right up there with the best of the SEC running backs. He carried the ball four times in the second half of a close game and had one yard. Butch Jones is recruiting his face off. . . . but I think a lot of that (preseason) hype and a lot of that stuff, whether it got to their heads or not, it maybe wasn’t the most accurate barometer. And so the pendulum is swinging back a little bit.
“Now that said, you got Tennessee and Georgia on CBS this week,” Zucker continued. “It’s going to be very bright lights and high profile for whoever’s drama is going to take another step backwards, whether it’s the Dogs or the Vols. But Tennessee fans are going nuts right now. They’ve had a rough run of head coaches ever since Phil Fulmer was there. Butch Jones now has the exact same record as Derek Dooley through the same number of games.”
Dooley was fired in 2012.