When the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and athletic director Todd Stewart made the controversial, surprising announcement to hire former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino to be South Florida head coach Willie Taggert‘s replacement, possible upsets against SEC matchups in Tennessee and Kentucky began to appear in the minds of those surrounding the program.
The fact that a man who threw away a high-level job in the SEC at Arkansas with the cover-up of an extramarital affair with a subordinate comes back to the commonwealth to take over a mediocre Sun Belt school had to be one of the most shocking surprises to those programs scheduled to play Petrino this season.
The early matchups for the 51-year old Petrino against SEC foes Kentucky in Nashville and Tennessee at Neyland Stadium could be major upsets early in the season. You heard it. Those games all have the “not-so-fast” made famous by veteran ESPN College Gameday analyst Lee Corso written all over them.
Just the storyline of the two SEC programs that had head coaching vacancies last season and whose administrations were heavily pressured by their fan bases to give Petrino a call, yet never gave him a thought is tantalizing.
Not saying that he should have been the one they coveted, just saying that he might have a little motivation going into those games. Frankly that would be a hard sell for an administration to hire a guy who has created such a firestorm wherever he’s been in his coaching career.
How do you sell that hire to your fans, prospective recruits, and university?
Western Kentucky did and took a swing at the fences by hiring Petrino, taking his past baggage and the possibility that he could bolt for another job if he’s successful at their university.
Petrino is considered one of the best offensive minds in the country. There is no one doubting his resume and success at stops with Louisville and Arkansas could resemble what he could bring to that university and program.
Western Kentucky is clearly the underdog going into this season. Petrino and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm have to find a new quarterback, which should be filled by Brandon Doughty, and Nick Holt‘s defense has to remodel with four new starters in the trenches. They will return last season’s vocal leader, all-purpose back Antonio Andrews and three starters on the offensive line.
Having said that, they also know that they have great poise after taking Kentucky to overtime and winning last season.
They won’t be afraid of taking on Mark Stoops and Butch Jones, especially with Petrino calling the shots. Everyone knows the Wildcats and Volunteers should be heavy favorites going into their games against Petrino’s club. However, the talent gap will be even closer after both teams are rebuilding their programs from the ground up.
Even though Western Kentucky will be undersized and outmatched at different positions on the field, you still have to be on upset alert if you’re Kentucky and Tennessee going into those games. Petrino has nothing to lose at WKU, had a year to prepare for this season, a 75-26 career track record and a reputation of upsetting better opponents with every prolific offense he’s coached.
We’re talking about a better, changed offensive genius, Bobby Petrino given another chance at winning.
And it wouldn’t be any sweeter than to upset Tennessee and/or Kentucky this season.