Planning for success: Arkansas

When Bret Bielema arrived at Arkansas and brought his physical style of play from the Big 10 to the SEC, people laughed at him. The rest of college football wanted to spread you out and go fast, and he was stuck in the past. Everybody wrote him off after his Razorbacks went winless in conference play his first season.

Nobody's laughing now.

Arkansas has won back-to-back SEC games, shutting out No. 17 LSU and No. 8 Ole Miss the past two weeks, and the Hogs are bowl eligible for the first time in three years. As Bielema says, he never flinched. He stayed the course and stuck to his style.

"It's not my style. It's Arkansas' style," Bielema said Monday. "I think a lot of people when I came here believed that I was going to take this cookie-cutter approach, treat everybody like little sugar cookies in all the little things that we do, and I didn't take that approach.

"I knew that I was going to have to adjust coming to a different league. But I carried forward a lot of the principles I believe in."

It took some time, but the players eventually bought in. Now they're finally beginning to see the hard work pay off after enduring so many hardships early on.

"To finally get over the hump and get some SEC wins under our belt, it's very rewarding," Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers said.

"Coach knew the things he was doing would produce wins eventually. Maybe not right away and it probably wouldn't be the prettiest wins, but they would eventually win and eventually win some championships."

Bielema's team won't be winning any championships this season, but they will still play a major role in which teams will meet in next week's SEC championship.

A week after ruining Ole Miss' chances of winning the West and possibly making the playoff, the Razorbacks have a chance to play spoiler again this week when they travel to Missouri. A Missouri win and the Tigers are headed back to the SEC title game. But if Arkansas wins, it will be Georgia who represents the East in Atlanta.

"Our coach told us if we can't be in it, we might as well mess up everybody else's chances," Flowers said. "But we're just looking for wins. We're not focusing on trying to spoil people's chances. We're still going out there, competing, and we're trying to put Arkansas on the map.

"I think it's more about gaining respect from everybody, all the opponents and everyone around the country."

Another win against a ranked opponent would be huge for the program, but Arkansas is already on the map. The Razorbacks, despite five SEC losses, received the most votes of any team not ranked in the AP Top 25 this week.

In Vegas, one oddsmaker had the Hogs as 1.5-point underdogs to No. 1 Florida State if the two played on a neutral site tomorrow, assuming quarterback Brandon Allen was healthy enough to play. Allen, who injured his hip against Ole Miss last week, has "a chance" to play this Friday, according to Bielema, but the point is that this Arkansas team can play with anybody.

"Oh yeah, no doubt," Flowers said. "I feel as though if you put us on the field with anybody -- the national champion or whoever -- I know we're going to be able to compete with them."

"As far as playing good football, I think we're playing as good as anybody. I really do," Bielema added. "Now what we do on Friday is totally in our hands, but I'd be very surprised if we didn't go over there and play very, very well and give everybody something to think about."

If Allen can't go, his brother Austin Allen, will likely get the start against Missouri. But regardless of who's under center, Arkansas has a pair of potential 1,000-yard rushers and a defense that hasn't allowed a point in eight quarters.

And really, that's all Bielema needs with his "old-school" approach.