Here is the second and final part of our Q&A with Jim Harris of AS360 (here's part 1). Take a break from the holiday hassles, curl up with some egg nog and read Jim's take on Ryan Mallett's place in Razorback quarterback history and his prediction for the Sugar Bowl. Many thanks to Jim for his time.
Expats: Where do you think Ryan Mallett ranks on the list of all-time Razorback quarterbacks? And do you think there's any chance that he returns for his senior season?
Harris: Mallett ranks No. 1 in my book. Previously, I had Joe Ferguson in that spot. Ferguson's two main seasons featured 8 wins and 6 wins and were fairly disappointing, though that certainly was not Joe's fault. It had more to do with what he was surrounded by. But Mallett was considered "the" guy with this bunch and look what they achieved: 8 wins and now 10 wins and a Top 10 finish and a BCS bowl.
As for next year, I don’t think Mallett will come back, but he has to declare by Jan. 15 and it’s doubtful anyone will know where the NFL collective bargaining agreement is going before March. I think he’s done all he can do on the college level. He’s probably a top-half first-round draft pick (Chris Mortensen says 12th or thereabouts), and he can get some money from his representative if he were to sign with an agent but the NFL still not adopt a CBA before next year.
Expats: What's at stake in the Sugar Bowl? (In terms of the Hogs' reputation and perception both around the SEC and nationally.)
Harris: Well, assuming Arkansas doesn't go out and party all week in the French Quarter (which they won't) and then lay and egg and lose 31-6, I don't think the result will matter at all.
If Arkansas loses a close one, they'll still be viewed as an Iowa. If they win a close one, the major media outside the region will probably look at Arkansas like a Wisconsin, a program you can look to see among the Top 15 every year.
I guess you can tell I think the major media looks at teams through a Big Ten viewpoint. Some SEC team is going to eventually lose to Ohio State. The old-time powers in the SEC find it easy to say, "It will probably be Arkansas." Whatever.
It's been a great season, with a great finish to the regular season, and the bowl game is the cherry on the top. In the long run, the reputation will be established on whether Arkansas comes back and pops Alabama and Auburn in the mouth next year or not, not on whether they falter in the bowl game. I think they'll show the nation, though, that they play very hard and are extremely well-coached. That's what they are.
Expats: Final question: What's your prediction for the Sugar Bowl?
Harris: What keeps creeping up in my mind is how much Jim Tressel will play that "we've never beaten an SEC team" card to his team for motivation. I also know that Arkansas under Houston Nutt — however adequately or unadequately prepared for the game — was 0-3 against Big Ten teams.
I'm interested to see early how Arkansas comes out "in the trenches" against a powerhouse Big Ten program. Against the best SEC teams, Ohio State has tended to jump out quickly, but the SEC team pops them back in the mouth and they fold up. Can the Hogs withstand any early punch and punch back and knock ‘em out?
Arkansas is vulnerable at the corners still, and Mississippi State and LSU were just unable to exploit it. A quarterback seemingly as talented as Terrell Pryor should be able to hurt Arkansas in its weakest defensive spots, and it also concerns you that he can exploit the Hogs' ends with his ability.
Playing in a BCS bowl is so old-hat to Ohio State, it pretty much means nothing to the Buckeyes now. It means everything to Arkansas, and I think the Hogs will play like it. It will help to go in as the 3-point underdog (or however much it is). Underdogs seem to prevail more in the bowls. I say: Arkansas 27, Ohio State 24.
If you haven't checked out part 1 of our Q&A with Jim, click on the link below: