Tusk to Tail: Coaching matters (we hope)

Following this week’s elections and the subsequent reactions throughout the news and social media, I think we can all agree: we care who leads us.

Since the results began trickling in, emotions have ranged from gloating to sulking to an outright taking-my-ball-and-going-home mentality. I have seen in-fighting, backbiting, and bandwagon riding.

Most of that passion was focused on the presidential race. Imagine how people will react once Jeff Long hires the Razorbacks’ next football coach.

In politics, money helps buy influence, whether through lobbyists, political action committees, or other big-money special interest groups. Upper echelon boosters may get the same type of treatment in college football, but it appears that the common person’s contributions do little more than feather the boar’s nest at Arkansas.

Tusk to Tail is a dedicated crew of Hog fans. This weekend marks the first and only game I will miss all season, and most of us have not missed any. Considering tickets, mandatory contributions for the right to buy those tickets, concessions, travel, and tailgating expenses, most of us spend more than $5,000 per year to follow the Razorbacks. Look around our tailgate and there are rarely fewer than 20 people fitting this description. That’s an easy $100,000, most of which goes straight to the Athletic Department.

So does anybody from the University ask who we would like to see as our next head coach? Hell no!

They won’t stop by for a morning cocktail, or even throw us a bone in the “Ain’t it great to tailgate” contest, for that matter. Athletic Director Jeff Long has shown little desire to involve or inform the fans or media in the search for our next coach.

Yet one thing is clear. Coaching matters.

When Ole Miss came to Little Rock a few weeks ago, few would argue that Arkansas had better talent at most positions. But their Coach Hugh Freeze has his team playing hard. This seemed to be the difference as they eked out a winning field goal as time expired.

Arkansas has two conference wins. One of the coaches we beat, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, has already been fired. The other, Auburn’s Gene Chizik, is less than two years removed from winning a BCS Championship, but is winless in the conference. Time will tell if he is another lame duck, but there is no denying that his seat is hot. Coaching matters.

During that two-game winning streak, our offense had begun to click. Unfortunately, visible cracks began to show in both special teams and defense during the Ole Miss game. Our man Mulcahy, the Tailgating Godfather’s consigliere who returns to make predictions this week, said it best, “We seal one leak, and two more appear.”

John L. Smith may have been successful coaching our special teams in the past, but as a head coach, he appears unable to keep all of the parts running smoothly. Simply put, coaching matters.

Let’s move along to the predictions, shall we?

Predict the final score, Arkansas @ South Carolina.
Sean Casey: USCe 79, Hogs 21
Jack Clark: Gamecocks 30, Hogs 10
Dale Cullins: Hogs 21, SoCal 20
Greg Houser: South Carolina 28, Arkansas 14. SC's defense keeps their offense in the game. Plus we own the overall series, guess it's about time for SC to get one.
Craig May: South Carolina 35, Arkansas 17
David Rice: Arkansas 13, Carolina 31
Mark Wagner: Arkansas 17, SC 24
Father Mulcahy: I will not pick against the Razorbacks, but I am not optimistic.

Who will be the Razorbacks’ impact player, and why?
SC: Cobi Hamilton. Two TDs and 250 yards receiving.
JC: Rasner recovers a fumble.
DC: Tyler Wilson.
GH: Breeding. Keeps SC pinned deep enough that they don’t score 35 or 42.
CM: Dylan Breeding comes to play each and every weekend.
DR: Nate Holmes on punt returns.  Keante Minor had me longing for the days of Rossi Morreale!
MW: Dennis Johnson puts the team on his shoulders and makes it happen. Unfortunately he won't play defense during this game.
FM: Dennis Johnson.

The Razorbacks just announced that they will play a two-game series with Michigan starting in 2018. Will the coach Arkansas hires this year still be here when they play? If not, why did he leave (fired, better job, death, etc.)?

SC: Tuberville will be the next Head Hog but he'll retire to duck hunt full time before we play The M.
JC: We will have the same coach in six years. The game in Michigan might be the first game in 6 years that's not at 11 a.m.
DC: I think we find our guy and he sticks.
GH: Dude!! Excited about playing in Big 10 country!! Um, no. It's just too hard to imagine any SEC coach staying longer than 6 years. The reason for that coach leaving will be all of the above. He got fired, found a better job with less expectations, and died on his next-to-last day of employment.
CM: No, the average life expectancy of any SEC coach is 5 to 6 years. This fan base has high expectations. It’s going to be tough for the next coach to live up to those expectations.
DR: The next coach will not have a lot of talent to work with, and the conference continues to get tougher. I can’t imagine him coaching both of these games.
MW: No. He was caught riding on a motorcycle with his girlfriend?
FM: I will give a glass-half-full response.Yes, because Long is going to make the right hire.

What are you looking most forward to this weekend?
SC: I am staying home this weekend. I look forward to watching a full day of college football from my living room. Chili will be on the menu this weekend.
JC: I am looking forward to a packed house at the game.
DC: An away-game weekend with the crew, good game, and nice weather.
GH: Hanging out with my Tusk to Tail buddies. I’m not looking forward to any post-election talk, though.
CM: I am looking forward to spending some time in the Vista with the wife and the boys from Tusk to Tail. Better enjoy Columbia. It’s going to be quite a while before we visit again.
DR: This is the first game I have missed this year, so most of my time will be spent with my family, watching games and catching up around the house and yard.
MW: Columbia is a fun town. The campus is beautiful, and it's always fun to watch the other Tusk to Tail group interact with the locals when we are traveling.
FM: I am most looking forward to traveling to South Carolina because I haven't been there before.

Pick the winners: Texas A & M @ Alabama and Mississippi State @ LSU.
SC: The Gumps over the Yell Leaders. The Aggies have to be one of the oddest fan bases in all of college athletics. The Corndogs grind the Grinders. State is a fraud.
JC: Bama over aTm.  LSU over MSU.
DC: Bama 34, A&M 13. LSU 27, MSU 17
GH: Alabama over Texas A&M.  No let down. LSU over Miss St. I am thinking Miss St. may be a bit overrated, and LSU may be a bit mad.
CM: Bama 28, A&M 21.  LSU 34, MSU 17.
DR: No hangover for Bama, as they feast on Johnny Ragdoll. LSU, on the other hand, played a game of a lifetime and lost. They come out flat and lose.
MW: A&M 14, Bama 31. LSU 35, Miss State 13
FM: Alabama and LSU.

Bonus predictions and commentary:
SC: Mark photographs the Godfather being arrested for trying to bribe his way out of a speeding ticket while driving a rental in Columbia.
JC: I predict that at some point this weekend, David will be at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
DC: Jack and Greg meet up with some Clemson fans and have one too many Jager Bombs and almost miss the early kick off time.
GH: Jack will re-live his last SC trip, the Little Rock guys will triumphantly tout the election, and we will all have a great time enjoying one last big road trip for the year!! Woo Pig!
DR: If Arkansas State beats Louisiana-Monroe Thursday night, their fans are going to really rub it in the Hog Fans’ faces.
MW: I predict at least one leg of the flight either going or coming will be delayed, I predict that regardless who wins, Saturday night in Columbia is going to be fun, and I predict after Saturday he Hogs will only have two more games left this year.
FM: I expect the Tusk to Tail group to start the early campaign for the legalization of marijuana when they travel to South Carolina. The new motto: one SEC state at a time!