COLUMBIA SC - NOVEMBER 06: Head coach Bobby Petrino of the Arkansas Razorbacks watches his team during warm ups before the start of their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 6 2010 in Columbia South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The coaching carousel got a turbo boost today when Urban Meyer issued his annual December resignation from Florida (by all accounts, it seems like this time it'll actually stick). From there, it didn't take long for the rumor mill to install Petrino as a top - if not the top - candidate. After all, he's a proven winner at the top of his game, and was apparently the 1st choice to replace Meyer the last time around (and the 2nd choice behind Meyer in 2004 after Ron Zook was canned).
However, based on the wildly speculative articles that immediately popped up after the announcement today, the conventional wisdom is that former Gator assistant Dan Mullen is another very strong contender. That's assuming he'd be willing to leave the Eden-like paradise of Starkville to head a mid-level program that lost 5 games this year, of course. That theory is usually also combined with the rumor of Gus Malzahn taking over for Mullen at Mississippi State.
My totally uninformed personal take is that if Florida offers the job to Petrino, he'll likely go. After all, Florida is a top five job and would be very hard to turn down, even if he has an undeniably good thing going in Fayetteville. If he leaves, watch for the nutty branch of Razorback fandom to unleash all sorts of hellfire and damnation on Jeff Long for not wrapping BP up with a contract extension as was rumored last week.
In the end, I think that the Gators will *probably* - and I only say this based on a gut feeling - look elsewhere for their guy (although they'll make Hog fans sweat a bit in the process). If we dodge this bullet it could mean that Petrino will be at Arkansas for a long time...there aren't a lot of better opportunities out there than this one, and by all public accounts he seems quite happy with the situation he's in. Wouldn't that just drive the ESPN talking heads crazy?
Here's a quick rundown of what others are saying:
* Jim Harris from AS360 breaks down the Mullen to Florida/Malzahn to Mississippi State scenario (the comments on the article make for an interesting snapshot of the Razorback fanbase's mental state, too).
* The Sporting News, on the other hand, very ominously puts Petrino at, quote, "the top of the list."
* And, of course, you have the columnists who can't resist taking shots at Petrino's famed wanderlust, etc, etc. Here's a sample from the lovely and charming Dennis Dodd.
* Here's a fun read: the top 10 highest-paid coaches in college football (Petrino is 10th nationally and 5th in the SEC). All the expected names are in there...plus Wake Forest's Jim Grobe at #8. Really?
* Lastly, a special Expats blast from the past: remember when the Hogs offered the job to Grobe and he turned it down? It was that little dalliance that earned him the top 10-level raise. Good times all around.