TCU first exposed Arkansas’ talent drop-off the second week of the season.
Texas A&M exploited it in the fourth week.
Alabama hammered it in the sixth week.
Auburn just stripped it bare and laid it out for the world to see Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Razorbacks simply don’t have the horses to play with the top level teams in the SEC.
Don’t wave the Ole Miss win around like it was a big deal because the Rebels don’t have that much talent, either. The Rebels are the only team in football that can’t run the ball against their own defense in practice.
Bret Bielema knows it. When you sort through the coach-speak after the loss to the Tigers, he as much as said it.
“We have to take a serious look at some of the things that we are doing, how we are making guys play and what we are asking them to do,” he said later.
That’s how coaches say their team simply can’t match up with the other team.
“We have to do a lot better of a job to put our guys in the position to have success,” Bielema said. “The position we have been putting them in can’t be executed or called, then we have to make changes.”
Again, that’s a shortfall of talent. But it really wasn’t the most alarming comment in the postgame.
“We are a 5-3 football team that can end on a high note, but we definitely have to make corrections moving forward,” Bielema said.
Eight games into the season and Bielema is talking about making corrections and actually hinting at changing things defensively in terms of scheme to make up for the talent shortfall.
In college football, it comes down to players. Coaching is, well, secondary. Great coaches don’t win championships unless they have high-ranking recruiting classes.
“Coach (Bobby) Bowden always used to tell us about recruiting that having a top class doesn’t guarantee you a national championship,” former Florida State coach Max Howell tells me at least three times a year, “but then he would add that he could guarantee you that you won’t win a championship without those high recruiting rankings.”
That has held true.
Especially in the SEC. Alabama dominates on the field and, in case you missed it, they have rounded up the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for the last six years. The last time Nick Saban’s crew wasn’t No. 1 in recruiting was 2010, according to the 247sports.com composite recruiting rankings.
Let’s face it, you could put Willie Shoemaker in his prime on a Clydesdale and he ain’t going to win the Kentucky Derby.
Don’t blame Bielema. He’s doing the best he can with what he’s got to work with.
He’s managed to keep it strung together about as well as can be expected and better than most.
Yes, this team is 5-3 with four games to play and two of them should be winnable. If he gets a run of November Luck like he’s had in the past the Hogs could finish 9-3.
But you got the idea from his brief comments with the media Saturday night that may be a little too optimistic.
“When you are playing against teams like this, especially teams that like to run the football as well as Auburn, it is as simple as being gap sound, edge sound and support sound,” he said as a way of explaining his defense.
Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that easy to fix without the talent.
“We unfortunately aren’t that way at this point,” he said.
The guess here is he found it surprising that he couldn’t get the talent at Arkansas to compete for championships in the SEC like was able to do at Wisconsin in the Big 10.
He also got out of the Big 10 before Urban Meyer got things rolling at Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh was coaching in the NFL, not at Michigan.
With a bye week coming up, rest and recovery will go a long way.
It will also give the coaches a chance to hit the recruiting trail … hard. Somehow, some way, Bielema has to figure out a way to get better players to be Razorbacks.
In his time at Arkansas, the Hogs have an average finish of 10th in the SEC in recruiting.
In case you’re wondering that’s down with Mississippi State, Kentucky, South Carolina and usually Ole Miss.
What can be done to fix it?
Get better players.