Big 12 Football! Catch the fever!
College football is the American high-school cafeteria. The different tables include the different conferences, each with their own personalities, norms and expectations. Breaking out of these bubbles, these hierarchies, is not an easy task. One can be kicked out for not meeting the standards set by the clique. One can be brought in for showing the potential to burnish a table’s prestige.
Bits and pieces shift every school year. Someone demoted to a lesser table. Someone promoted to a higher one. But even among the similar tables, rivalries boil and fester. The hockey and baseball guys never see eye-to-eye, ya know. Nor does the math club and the theater crew, despite what outsiders may think.
Most of the football world sees the Power Five conferences in this manner. Granted, the Southeastern Conference has been the proverbial king of the school for going on two decades (Either he keeps being held back or he’s the O’Doyles. Up to you.). The difference between the Pac-12 and the ACC, though, isn’t one that’s frankly all that significant. Heck, when it comes to recent College Football Playoff appearances, even the Big Ten has caught up to the Good Ol’ Boys of the Deep South.
Still, what the SEC might have lacked in complete on-field domination the last few years has been countered by the magnitude of its appeal. In August, the Sports Business Journal reported the league’s partnership with ESPN had an average value of $710 million a year. That was only eclipsed by the Big Ten’s $1.15 billion a year, though that came across from three different networks in FOX, NBC and CBS. Of the 10 most watched regular-season games of the year, four were SEC-vs-SEC and three were Big Ten-vs-Big Ten.
Kendal Briles Heads to the Big 12
You know who isn’t around the conversation so much? The Big 12. Sure, Texas Christian got to be the sport’s darlings for a grand total of about a week, but then they were sandblasted off the field by – guess who – an SEC team. Shoot, the Big 12 even lost its two most prestigious members to the SEC as Texas and Oklahoma have already signed on to make the move at some point in the coming years.
So, who in his right mind would take the role at a lower-class table? Kendal Briles, that’s who.
Arkansas’ offensive coordinator is now officially TCU’s offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and associate head coach, the last of which is a title he did not have with the Hogs and will help further bolster his higher salary. Briles, to be clear, didn’t need this job title to merit becoming a head coach himself some day soon. He was just as well qualified to do that at Arkansas.
To Fort Worth, Briles takes an offensive scheme that actually outgained the Horned Frogs comparatively this season as the 15th-ranked total offense against the 27th-ranked total offense, which is notable given how much better SEC defenses are supposed to be than Big 12 defenses.
The conference long considered by the hoi polloi of the SEC to be Other apparently had the temerity to swoop in and poach an up-and-comer. Maybe the SEC isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, huh?
Replacing Kendal Briles
Pittman, however, was ready to fill Briles’ seat almost immediately. Less than 24 hours after Briles had reportedly taken the gig in Fort Worth, Low reported Pittman would be replacing his exited OC with his former colleague at Arkansas. Only, on another staff. Dan Enos was announced as the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator officially on Thursday, returning to the school that provided his first Power 5 coordinator job after he’d already been the head coach at Central Michigan. The reunion was theoretically happy.
Enos and Pittman had Arkansas’ offense rolling back in their one season together in 2015. Enos was calling the plays, while Pittman got his hogs ready up front. Arkansas was 34th in rushing offense and 32nd in passing offense to combine for a total offense ranking of 32nd in the country.
Arkansas’ offense was progressively worse each year under Enos, but that wasn’t totally on him. Alex Collins had put up the third largest single-season rushing total in school history in 2015. His successor, Rawleigh Williams III, was a dynamite back, but he wasn’t Collins and didn’t have the same offensive line – plus a neck injury forced him to retire before the 2017 season. Jeremy Sprinkle wasn’t Hunter Henry.
In three short years, Enos went from a three-pronged attack of Brandon Allen, Collins, and Drew Morgan-Keon Hatcher-Henry to Cole Kelley-David Williams-Jonathan Nance-Deon Stewart-Jeremy Patton.
Which do you think he’d have more success with? Enos may not be an upgrade, per se, over Briles, but he certainly isn’t a slouch.
Comparing Arkansas Football to TCU
The bigger theme still lingers given what’s left Arkansas, though. TCU may be the defending national runners-up, but the Horned Frogs are hardly a powerhouse. They will be less so when OU and Texas leave because the strength of the conference will likely drop so precipitously. Certainly the transfer portal and NILs have changed the game to the point that almost anyone can contend right out of the gate. But Arkansas simply isn’t good enough at this point.
Meaning, despite the SEC affiliation (and partly because of it), Arkansas is a lesser program than TCU. Not just in 2022, but in recent history. I believe Kendal Briles is convinced he can do more there than he can in Fayetteville at an SEC school with a football program that seems perpetually convinced it’s about to get over the hump.
They aren’t. Not really. Not for any significant period of time. Briles knew that. Pittman probably does. Enos certainly does. Arkansas knows ‘good enough’ really is ‘good enough’ and if they’re lucky, maybe, just maybe, that 10-win season could rear its head. Once. Every 15 years. Otherwise, when the Longhorns and Sooners arrive and the Horned Frogs have proven themself superior, maybe swapping over to the ol’ conference one state west isn’t such a bad idea after all.
Actually, no. Nevermind. Because at this point, if you haven’t realized it yet: the wins are great, but only if they can help you move tables in the cafeteria.
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…