Sam Pittman or Lane Kiffin? Hopefully the loss on Vaught-Hemingway won't hurt the Hogs' coach's chances.
Even with a three-game losing streak in October, no one can deny the growth Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) has shown during the 2021 season. Two top 25 wins for a program that still is in rebuild mode, plus a shot to go to a bowl game speaks volume.
Then again, so does being a loss away from remaining undefeated.
Kiffin and No. 9 Rebels (6-1, 3-1 SEC) fell like most to then-No. 1 Alabama inside the walls of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Two fourth down conversions kept the first drive alive and spirits high for the Hotty Toddy faithful.
Then came Nick Saban and quarterback Bryce Young to the tune of 451 yards of offense and 42 points. Down went Ole Miss, but the losing streak stopped at one.
They Rebels rebounded the following Saturday against the Hogs at home. Should quarterback KJ Jefferson connect with Treylon Burks on the two-point conversion, maybe the voters would look differently at Pittman's losses.
Arkansas would be 6-2. They would already be bowl eligible. They'd be .500 in conference play, have three top 25 wins on the stat sheet and likely still be ranked somewhere in the AP poll.
Instead, the play was broken up. Ole Miss won and they're a top 10 team with a surge towards a New Year's Six Bowl game.
Kiffin continues to prove his value as one of college football's up-and-coming names. Well back to his days under Saban to his time at Florida Atlantic, the cool young Kiffin of yesteryear that was way in over his head at USC is no more.
Here stands a more wise and mature version of the fella who was fired on a tarmac in Los Angeles. Since his time at Florida Atlantic, Kiffin has posted a 37-19 record. He won the Conference USA title in both 2017 and 19 before heading to Oxford.
Should the Rebels win out, they'll be 11-1 this fall and tied for first in the division. Kiffin, meanwhile could use this a collateral for a pay raise from the school.
That, or perhaps use it for a resume booster a larger program.
Hi LSU and Miami, have we met? I'm Lane bleeping Kiffin.
Pittman's rise to success in Fayetteville has not gone unnoticed. Arkansas has been rebuilding since the final days of Bobby Petrino. Bret Bielema had one season of semi-productive play. Chad Morris exited the program as quickly as he came.
Pittman holds an 8-10 record in his two seasons, but perhaps voters look at nearly .500 as a win. Kiffin's gun to the metal offense is enticing for any young recruit to #ComeToTheSip. Pittman, on the other hand is grinding like the every man to find the right players to build a culture that'll sustain for years to come.
Oh, and as for Georgia's Kirby Smart — Pittman's former boss — he too is likely in the running thanks to a No. 1 recruiting class and the top ranking in today's game. Then again, name a coach who could lose with the talent found in Athens.
Ok, stop, you get the idea though.
Kiffin inherited a program that went 9-15 under Matt Luke and still produced top NFL talent. Pittman took over a school that hadn't won a conference game since 2017; and even then it was just one victory.
The race of SEC coach of the year likely comes down to two factors; wins and importance of them. Ole Miss still must face No. 18 Auburn, No. 14 Texas A&M and Liberty to close out the year.
Pittman and the Hogs face Mississippi State, a beaten down LSU, Alabama and Missouri. There is a key to winning the award, Sam.
Beat Saban. Beat him at home. Do what Lane couldn't get done.
Maybe the Razorbacks' renaissance season isn't done yet. Another top 10 victory? That's sweeter than the barbeque sauce found on Saturdays at the tailgate.
Should Pittman win at BDS, ship the trophy to his office and don't waste anyone's time. Heck, should the Hogs win three of four, Pittman's earned it due to working with less.
It's likely a two-man race between Pittman and Kiffin. May the best man win entering the final month of the 2021 season.
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