Decades ago, it was fairly easy for a youngster to pick up a phrase some coaches would use in the preseason that was usually laying the groundwork for bad news.
Back in the hot summer of 2008 while on the summer media circuit around the SEC in Starkville, Mississippi, I was trying to get Sylvester Croom to admit the Bulldogs had pulled a couple of fortunate wins the year before in an 8-5 season.
Narrow wins over Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss left anyone who saw those games scratching their heads. A couple even looked to the heavens after the games ended.
Crom wasn’t buying into the luck angle (although he did struggle to come up with an answer for the miracle comeback against the Rebels). Croom used all the typical clichés we hear from coaches, so I took a little different route, asking him how good the 2008 team could be.
“We might have a better team, but the record might not be as good,” he told me.
That ended up being 4-8 and a housecleaning to make way for Dan Mullen.
Fast-forward 12 years and Arkansas coach Sam Pittman could say the same thing but in a year unlike anything ever seen in college football with everything going on it could be a valid argument.
Not that he’ll make it. I doubt it’s really a fair question since he wasn’t responsible for a 4-20 record the past couple of years.
Pittman won’t get the advantage of playing some tune-up games like have always been on the schedule. The best thing the SEC could do, in my opinion, is make 10 league games mandatory going forward with only a couple of Power 5 opponents there but they probably won’t do that.
Nobody has a clue what’s going to happen this year. Teams are basically one frat party away every week from having to start mostly players that were playing high school ball last year.
Making a season projection on this unusual year is virtually impossible. It will be a week-to-week thing.
For years it’s been pretty clear to play for a championship you’ve got to have about 40 really good players. If you still think it’s about putting 11 guys out there on each side and hanging on, well, that doesn’t happen anymore.
That’s the biggest problem for the Razorbacks now … assuming, of course, they get a coaching staff that actually has a clue how to deal with adults that aren’t in high school.
You get the idea Pittman knows it, which is why the second and third teams have seen so much action in the two scrimmages.
The flip side to all this is a 2-8 record THIS year will be massive progress, regardless how you want to look at it.
That’s more SEC wins than the last three seasons COMBINED, which tells you exactly how deep the ditch Hogs football has sailed into since the day after Thanksgiving in 2016.
Pittman and the fans know all this.
Which is why a two-win season this year would be a big step forward.
And could show a better team.