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UPDATE: Arkansas will reportedly hire Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.
Though the Arkansas football program was rocked to its core by the Bobby Petrino scandal and ultimately paid the price with a dismal 4-8 finish this season with John L. Smith at the helm, hope should still be alive and well in Fayetteville.
Indeed, this is still a program that is just one season removed from back-to-back double-digit-win seasons in the SEC West, which is no small feat no matter how you slice it.
What makes Arkansas a tougher job than Auburn is twofold: First, the Razorbacks haven’t recruited as well; secondly, they haven’t broken through to the world of BCS wins.
The Hogs' recruiting numbers are solid, but the problem with the SEC West is that "solid" doesn’t quite do it when you’re keeping things relative to the division where LSU, Alabama and even Auburn recruit Top 10 classes regularly.
Arkansas hauled in the No. 49-ranked class in 2010 (technically 2013’s seniors), the No. 24 group in 2011 and the No. 33 set in 2012, and the class of 2013 is currently at No. 39.
What this means from a hiring standpoint is that while the Razorbacks are talented, a coach will have more work to do than whoever lands the Auburn or Tennessee jobs, and they’ll also be playing in the SEC (where the payoff is also bigger).
The second aspect as to why the Razorback job is more difficult than the other opening in the SEC West, Auburn, involves the fact that Arkansas hasn’t “broken through” yet.
Yes, the Hogs have made it to the BCS (they fell to Ohio State in the 2010-11 Sugar Bowl) but they haven’t won a conference title since they captured the Southwest Conference crown in 1989.
This means that the next guy will have to push Arkansas over the edge, and to do this he’s got to make the team believe they belong there and that they can consistently knock off the likes of LSU, Alabama and Auburn.
The Razorback job is a great gig, but it won’t be easy for whoever signs on the dotted line.
In my opinion, Bobby Petrino may be the most difficult guy to replace (and we’ll assume that Smith didn’t actually do that) in college football.