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FAYETTEVILLE - When Arkansas meets Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, a pair of Razorbacks coaches will get a chance at retribution
Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and special teams coordinator John L. Smith each spent four years coaching in the Big Ten prior to their arrival at Arkansas. McGee was a position coach and offensive coordinator at Northwestern from 2004-07, while Smith was the head coach at Michigan State from 2003-06.
Though the two went a combined 1-7 during their tenures against the Buckeyes, the familiarity should help in preparation for the Jan. 4 game.
“The memories come back of how they execute and what their style is, and you take those things and present them,” said Smith, now in his second season at Arkansas. “Things haven’t changed, even though some schemes might be a little different. Basically they’re going to play the same. They’re not going to do a billion things. They’re going to be very disciplined and very physical.”
Smith, who also serves as the Razorbacks inside linebackers coach, said Big Ten ball is different than the style played in the Southeastern Conference. Much of that, he said, has to do with the colder climate in the northern states.
“They pride themselves in run the football, run the football, run the football,” Smith said. “I think it’s more of a wide-open game in the SEC. I think the people in the SEC pride themselves on speed, speed, speed, as to where back in the Big Ten they pride themselves in muscle, muscle, muscle.”
That doesn’t mean the “Big Ten is slower” stereotype is true.
“I coached in the Big Ten for four years so I know about (Ohio State),” McGee said. “They run different schemes, but they have athletes on the SEC level.
“You hear people say that the Big Ten is slow, but I know exactly about the speed they have. They will be athletic and fast. Anyone who thinks they are slow is wrong.”
The two coaches’ histories with Jim Tressel go back further than just their days in the Big Ten. McGee (Northern Iowa) and Smith (Montana) were assistants in Division I-AA (now FCS) while Tressel was a four-time national championship winning coach at Youngstown State.
“It wasn’t a good result,” Smith said. “He beat us then, too.
“Coach Tressel does a great job. I don’t think he’s going to give his kids a million and one things to do. They’re going to keep things as simple as they can, but those kids are going to be very disciplined and execute the things they’ve been taught to execute. They’re going to pride themselves on being good enough to beat you one-on-one.”
Arkansas’ resources aren’t limited to just Smith and McGee. Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and tight ends coach Chip Long each spent the previous two seasons with the Razorbacks. Paul Petrino is the younger brother of Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino.
The Buckeyes beat the Fighting Illini 24-13 earlier this season.
“I’ll try to get as much as I can from Paul,” Bobby Petrino said Sunday. “Certainly they spent an entire week preparing for (Ohio State), but they also watched them throughout the year. You learn a lot about a team when you watch them play the other opponents you’re trying to prepare for.”
For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.