We talk all the time in college football about rebuilding and reloading, but Arkansas and Tennessee are embarking on the third path this year. They're going with the reset.
Simply put, for reasons that are unique to each and in different phases of the game, both the Hogs and the Vols are going back to the approaches they had before last year's terrible football seasons. How quickly the teams can switch back to what they used to do pretty well will decide how this season goes.
The most obvious example of going back to the old approach is Arkansas. Houston Nutt's departure stemmed at least in part from restlessness among Razorback fans about his run-heavy offense. The pass-happy Bobby Petrino was brought in to replace Nutt, and had great success with his offense before taking the most ill-advised motorcycle ride in recorded history.
So Arkansas went to Bret Bielema. And if you were trying to figure out which one of Arkansas' two previous coaches Bielema's philosophy most closely resembles, the numbers comparing Petrino's tenure at Arkansas with Bielema's career at Wisconsin over the same time period make it pretty clear.
|Run %||Pass %||Run %||Pass %|
While the numbers might not be as reliable a barometer in 2012, given that Petrino had already left Fayetteville, they didn't change. Arkansas passed the ball about 55.6 percent of the time, and Wisconsin ran it 68.6 percent of the time.
None of this on its own is good or bad. Arkansas won a lot of games under Petrino with one approach, and Wisconsin won three B1G Championships with Bret Bielema under his approach. But they are different approaches, and there is going to be an adjustment period in Fayetteville this year. It's inevitable. Whether the Hogs go to a bowl or not could hinge on how quickly they adapt to a new offense.
Tennessee is also attempting to go back to the future, but the most dramatic change is going to be on the other side of the ball. Derek Dooley decided last year to install a 3-4 defense, to disastrous results. Butch Jones has discarded that and gone back to a 4-3, though the upshot is that Tennessee's now working on (and been recruiting for) a different defensive scheme for the third straight year.
Again, there are great defenses with both the 3-4 and the 4-3. But the question is how well the defensive players in Tennessee can adapt. There, they have two distinct advantages over their counterparts on the Arkansas offense: Many of them were recruited for the 4-3, and it's nearly impossible for the Tennessee defense to get any worse, or at least to get any worse in a way that's likely to cost them games. The ceiling for the Vols will depend on how much better that defense can get.