Okay, it's finally August. The Brewers have been unwatchable all year, and I can't read another sermon about performance-enhancing drugs. Can we talk about football now?
Good. Later this month begins the most compelling local football season in recent memory. Former head coach and plus-sized windbreaker model Bret Bielema is now in Arkansas, having departed to a hearty chorus of nice-knowin'-ya, now-get-the-hell-outta-heres, which sets up two entertaining storylines. Can Wisconsin's new coach, Gary Andersen, keep a good thing going? Was Bielema merely a lucky goober handed the keys to the kingdom here seven years ago, or does he have the chops to make Arkansas a contender in the almighty Southeastern Conference?
Wisconsin probably will be fine. The Badgers have plenty of returning talent and a manageable schedule, and so far there's nothing to suggest that Andersen was a poor choice. He turned around a horrific program at Utah State and has earned his shot here.
Bielema's challenge is greater than Andersen's. The SEC essentially runs college football, and its Western division is the belly of the beast, boasting five of the last six national champions and three of the last four Heisman winners. Bielema deserves props for having the guts to make the move (although the money's great, too), and I'm sure he views Arkansas as something of an undervalued stock. The Razorbacks have never won the SEC, but motorcycle enthusiast Bobby Petrino had them in the Top 10 nationally by his third year in Fayetteville, even with a defense that sometimes seemed an afterthought.
Bielema has settled in well. He's hired a solid coaching staff, some of whom followed him from Madison, and together they landed a decent recruiting class. He'll need to win soon, though. SEC football fans are clinically insane -- if the Hogs struggle much longer than a year, his old detractors here will sound like a boys' choir by comparison.