Bret Bielema spoke to the Saline County Razorback Club. He deployed the customary bluster for such situations, claiming he came to Arkansas to win SEC Titles. He also threw in a barb at Nick Saban, pointing out how he was a much better Big Ten coach than Saban was at Michigan State.
“I came to the SEC for a variety of reasons, but the major one in my mind was to win an SEC championship.”
The new head Hog, hired in December from Wisconsin, then addressed two-time defending national champion Alabama and Coach Nick Saban. “The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn’t come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama.
“You can take Saban’s record when he was at Michigan State and when he was a coach in the Big Ten and put it against mine, and he can’t compare.”
He is right. Their records in the Big Ten don’t compare, but neither do their situations. Saban inherited a Michigan State program in disarray from decline and sanctions. Bielema took the reins of the strong, stable program Barry Alvarez built. Saban coached when the Big Ten was at its apex. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State were at full bore. Northwestern and Wisconsin produced conference title winners. Even Purdue became a consistent Top 25 team for a few years. Bielema coached when the Big Ten hit bottom. Penn State was erratic. Michigan plummeted. Ohio State was decimated by scandal and neutralized by sanctions.
Bielema had more success, but in an environment far more conducive to it. Given the choice between 1995 Nick Saban and 2006 Bret Bielema, many would still choose the former. Arkansas’ new coach is confident now. We’ll see how cocksure he is when he travels to Tuscaloosa, after a three game stretch of Texas A&M, at Florida and South Carolina.
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