It’s not hyperbole to say that Bret Bielema has had the worst week of any coach in America. After randomly criticizing Ohio State’s strength of schedule, Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks lost at home to Toledo, scoring just 12 points in the process.
How bad was it for Bielema, whose mouth often gets him into trouble? Gary Danielson called him the Donald Trump of college football.
“Here’s what I think,” the CBS college football broadcaster said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “If you’re going to be Trump, you have to get on the $100 million jet plane and leave afterward. You can’t throw out all this stuff and not back it up. And I love Bret Bielema. I’ve known Bret since he played at Iowa and I watched his growth. I did his game when he was a defensive coordinator at Kansas State when they won that Big 12 championship against Oklahoma, and I know what he did at Wisconsin. But I’m shocked at what’s happening to Arkansas this year.”
For whatever reason, Arkansas, a run-first team, threw 53 passes against a MAC team. Granted, the run game wasn’t exactly effective – Arkansas rushed 31 times for 101 yards and a touchdown – but why not keep pounding the ball against a smaller team, especially when you’re only down six points in the fourth quarter? Arkansas made five trips to the red zone against Toledo and had just one field goal to show for it.
So yeah, not a good look for a coach who had just criticized the defending national champions.
“What are you doing talking about other teams?” Danielson asked. “Get your own team right. You don’t hear Urban Meyer talk about other teams or Nick Saban talk about other teams. This is a tough business. And I just wonder if this football team might have taken their focus away from Toledo and (worried) about Ohio State schedule. What the heck is that? I thought it was a mistake by Bret. Hey, we all make mistakes. It’s not the end of the program. I said it before. This is not the year for Arkansas. This odd year, the schedule doesn’t break their way. It’s the even years where Arkansas is a real threat, and I think they’re a year away and I always thought they were a year away.”
Arkansas isn’t the only SEC-West team struggling right now. Auburn survived its season-opener against Louisville but needed overtime to fend off Jacksonville State this past Saturday.
For Danielson, Auburn’s problems are more mental than physical.
“Some teams can handle (the expectations of being a national contender) because they’re used to it,” he said. “When USC or Alabama or Florida or Florida State or Ohio State is picked to win the national championship, that’s kind of been in their system and culture forever around that campus and they’re used to it. Now, Gus (Malzahn) has built a great program there and has rebuilt it, but this is somewhat new to Auburn being a favorite going into a season.”
Danielson doesn’t think Auburn had enough focus against Jacksonville State. Still, the game shouldn’t have gone to overtime.
“No excuses, but I think that’s one part,” said Danielson, who will call Auburn’s game at No. 13 LSU this Saturday. “Part No. 2 is this is not a team that Gus feels comfortable with. Gus Malzahn has run the same offense for 20 years. I think he’s kind of playing a bit left-handed with his offense. Auburn, when they win – and when they did win in the past – they finished first or second in the SEC in yards per rush attempt. They’re eleventh – eleventh – with a running offense. That’s not going to work. Now, that all might be fine if their quarterback was making the pitch and catch the way they anticipated. Everything would start working better. But right now, Jeremy’s not playing well. And when you have that type of a team and your quarterback has thrown five interceptions – and five bad interceptions – in 53 attempts, you’re struggling. And they are struggling.”