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Harrison on Bielema: Can This Work?

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 5, 2012


After a very successful campaign in Madison, Bret Bielema has moved on to the presumed greener pastures of the SEC with the breaking news that he will be the next head coach at Arkansas. But is it a good fit in Fayetteville?


By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

Well that came out of left field. Who saw Bret Bielema to Arkansas coming?

Barry Alvarez put Wisconsin on the map, but Bielema has kept it there by winning Big Ten titles, appearing in Rose Bowls, and churning out first round draft picks. But now, the guy who grew up in the Big Ten appears to be moving south to a warmer climate.

But will this little experiment work in the SEC? Does a guy with Midwestern roots and a Big Ten philosophy stand a chance in the nation’s most talent rich conference? Can the template that worked in the Big Ten possibly succeed down in the southern states where plodding is rejected with last week’s trash?

Sure it can, and there are examples that prove it.

Remember the days when the SEC was known as a progressive conference where wide-open attacks and offensive scheming were invented faster than computer technology? If you don’t, that’s likely because something funny happened on the way to the SEC getting its lion’s share of the college football marketplace. It hired some old-school thinkers that dialed things back to brawny football.

Those old-school thinkers just happen to be Nick Saban and Les Miles--arguably the two most prominent coaches in the SEC today. Nick Saban is running the same things and coaching with the same philosophies today as he did at Michigan State. It was successful there, and we all know how successful it has been with the Tide. Meanwhile, Les Miles was a Michigan player, graduate assistant, and assistant coach with a Bo Schembechler stamp in his DNA.

It fits.

What the two have done is instill the same principles that one now former Wisconsin coach prescribes to today. Just like a punishing running attack, physical defense, and controlled passing game has been a staple in Madison, so too has it been in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge since two old warriors were hired. So it will remain until someone shows that it’s not the way to win titles in the southeast.

That’s where this hire comes in. You can bet your bottom dollar that teams are beginning to take notice of what has happened in the SEC with Alabama and LSU. If you’re going to play with the top dogs, you have to go select a canine bred at the same kennel. That’s exactly what Arkansas is getting with Bret Bielema.

So before you cavalierly disregard the ability of anything related to the Big Ten having a shot at being successful remember that it’s happened before and it’s currently happening. With this hire, Arkansas AD Jeff Long is hoping to get a little taste of the pie that is going around in the SEC. If Bielema can recruit, Arkansas fans can only hope that the others in the conference get a taste of humble pie courtesy of a Big Ten guy willing to trade old-school for much of the same, just in a bit warmer climate.