Hog analysis: Smithson puts Razorbacks' run in historical perspective

Hog analysis: Smithson puts Razorbacks' run in historical perspective

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 Petrino's No. 6 Hogs
are on a historical
three-year run.

It's a great time to be a Razorback.

With two games to play, the Arkansas Razorbacks are 9-1 and ranked No. 6 in the BCS.  Every time you turn on one of the national sports shows covering college football, in the background is a Razorback football helmet. Every time the SEC is talked about, Arkansas gets mentioned. As soon as the Alabama-LSU game was final, talk turned to the Arkansas-LSU game, not just locally, but nationally. The Hogs have a tough game Saturday in Little Rock against Mississippi Sate and must win to keep their lofty goals alive. If they do, they will be staring at Arkansas football history.

Expectations have risen since Coach Bobby Petrino arrived in Fayetteville. Petrino is not afraid of expectations and wants to be in all of the talk concerning the best of the SEC and country. How high has the bar been set in the past?  What is the best four- and three-year runs in Razorback history?  Let’s take a look.

The first great three and four-year run came in '08, ’09, ’10 and ’11.  Not 2000 but 1900!  Hugo Bezdek was the coach and the Cardinals became the Razorbacks during his tenure.

1908: 5-4
1909: 7-0
1910: 7-1
1911: 6-2-1

That is 25-7-1 (.758) over four years and 20-3-1 (.833) for ’09-’11.It was a long time before another run like that.  In 1958, Coach Frank Broyles arrives and the next year four such four year runs begin.

1959: 9-2
1960: 8-3
1961: 8-3
1962: 9-2

That is 34-10-0 (.772) for four years and 25-8-0 (.757) for either ’59-’61 or ’60-’62.

1962: 9-2
1963: 5-5
1964: 11-0
1965: 10-1

Four year total 35-8-0 (.814) and  26-6-0 (.812) for ’63-’65.

Interesting thing about this four-year stretch is 1963. Arkansas got caught in a rules change back to totally two-way football. Broyles had been a master at using the substitution rules to maximize his players ability on offense or defense. In 1964, the rules committee went completely the opposite way with free substitution. While many teams still trained their players in both offense and defense, Arkansas generally only played folks one way. It was as big an advantage for the Hogs as the 1963 rules change was detrimental. 

1963: 5-5
1964: 11-0
1965: 10-1
1966: 8-2

That's the best four-year span percentage. 34-8-0 is a .809 rate.  The ’64-’66 seasons total 29-3-0 (.903) is also the highest three-year percentage.

1968: 10-1
1969: 9-2
1970: 9-2
1971: 8-3-1

This stretch is Coach Broyles last hurray until the 1975 10-2 Cotton Bowl Championship team.  The HOGS were 36-8-1 (.800) over four years and 28-5-0 (.848) from ’68-’70.

Lou Holtz hit the ground running in 1977.

1977: 11-1
1978: 9-2-1
1979: 10-2
1980: 7-5

Holtz’s first four were his best, 37-10-1 (.771) was the most wins over four years up to that point. His first three years 30-5-1 (.833) was the best since the ’68-’70 run.

Ken Hatfield had two four-year runs that were not the highest in percentage but were the most wins of any Hog coach over four years.

1985: 10-2
1986: 9-3
1987: 9-4
1988: 10-2

That's 38-11-0 (.775) and 28-9-0 ’85-87. In ’86-88 it was 28-9-0 (.757) over three years.

1986: 9-3
1987: 9-4
1988: 10-2
1989: 10-2

Another four-year 38-11-0 (.775) and ’87-’89 three-year run of 29-8-0 (.784).

Since Ken Hatfield left Arkansas for Clemson after the 1989 season, no coach has had a percentage over .700 over a three-year stretch. That's what makes the 2011 seniors special. After a rough 5-7 start in 2008, Petrino has lead Arkansas to a 32-16 (.667) record over the past four years, and there are still at least three games to play. With the 2011 season still to be completed and the ’09 season of 8-5-0, and the ’10 season of 10-3, Arkansas has a three-year winning percentage of 75 percent.  The best since 1987-89.  As Hatfield used to say, "It's a great day to be a Fightin' Razorback."

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