LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -Houston Nutt will take the field again at Arkansas this weekend - this time as the visiting coach.
If that sounds a little strange, you obviously haven't been following the SEC West.
The Southeastern Conference is already home to some of the nation's most bitter rivalries, but in the West there's now an added twist. Almost every coach in the division has some tie to one of the other five teams, and that makes for a compelling matchup practically every weekend.
Saturday night in Fayetteville: Arkansas vs. Mississippi - for the first time since Nutt left the Razorbacks and joined the Rebels.
``Sometimes you can't help but think about it off and on during the summer because of all the time we spent there, but I've been pretty wrapped up in Ole Miss,'' Nutt said. ``I love this football team here and I've gotten close with these guys. Once the whistle blows and once that ball is kicked off, I think it's just like every other football game.''
l travel to LSU to face the program he once led to the BCS championship. If the Crimson Tide enters undefeated, that could be the game of the year in the conference.
``We respect what was accomplished at LSU. When we were there it was a special time in our life, and I think a lot of people respect that,'' Saban said. ``At the same time, when we go there and play, there's going to be a lot of added interest because some of those people know us and probably have some feeling about how the world has turned since that time.''
It's been quite a soap opera. You can't tell the players without a scorecard, but you need a map to keep track of some of these coaches.
The carousel started spinning about a decade ago. Toward the end of 1997, Arkansas needed a new coach, and Tommy Tuberville was a candidate. Nutt ended up with the job instead, and Tuberville remained where he was - at Mississippi.
A year later, Tuberville headed to Auburn. In 2002, the Tigers employed a promising offensive coordinator named Bobby Petrino. He left to become the head coach at Louisville, but was never quite forgotten on the Plains.
In 2003, a contingent of Auburn officials flew to Kentucky to talk to Petrino about Tuberville's job. When news of that courtship leaked, Auburn backed off. Tuberville and the Tigers went unbeaten the following season, and he's still their coach now.
s his six straight wins over rival Alabama. That streak started in 2002, Dennis Franchione's last season with the Crimson Tide. When Alabama was looking for a new coach, Sylvester Croom was interviewed. Croom had played for Alabama and been an assistant there, but the Crimson Tide went with Mike Shula instead.
Croom was eventually hired by Mississippi State, where he's won his last two meetings with Alabama. In 2006, a loss to Mississippi State began a late-season slide that ended Shula's tenure with the Tide. Alabama then brought in Saban.
Croom also beat rival Ole Miss last year. The Rebels immediately fired Ed Orgeron and began searching for their third coach since Tuberville's departure. They didn't have to look far. Nutt left Arkansas and went to Ole Miss. The Razorbacks replaced him with ... Petrino.
``I do think when you are searching for a head coach, you obviously would love to find a head coach that has the experience in an environment like the SEC,'' Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone said. ``Because it is different. It's tough, and it's relentless, and it can wear a person down. You're not really sure whether they're up to it or not unless they've been through it before.''
Poor Les Miles must feel left out. The LSU coach is the only one in the division who isn't really part of this tangled web. He'll be Saban's foil, though, when the Tigers host Alabama.
ar spot this weekend, on the sideline opposite Nutt.
``We talked about it early in the week,'' he said. ``I think all our players understand that it's about our football team playing their football team, our players playing their players. Certainly a lot of our players have good feelings and a lot of respect for coach Nutt and the rest of their staff that went there.''
Saban understands why fans are excited about these coach-centric rivalries, but he tries not to fuel the hype. There will be plenty of that out there already when he takes on his old program.
``You like to see those guys be successful. You recruited them and know their family,'' Saban said. ``But at the same time you have a new team that you've worked hard with.''

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