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Andy Hodges

The Long road to holidays filled with bumps, potholes

Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long will have an interesting November with College Football Playoff duties and an interesting road with the Hogs’ football team.

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With Arkansas football headed to a stretch run over the final quarter of a season with a 4-5 record, Jeff Long’s job gets interesting.

Which may be an understatement.

If you take him at his word, he doesn’t believe in making changes with coaches during the season. Fair enough, but we won’t know for a year or so if that’s the wise decision in today’s college football world with a new early signing period for recruits.

What has already happened in this season, which may be to Bret Bielema’s benefit, is Florida kicking Jim McElwain to the curb early and Tennessee likely to do the same thing with Butch Jones any day.

Every time I see one of those pictures of Jones on the internet these days, the first thought is always, “dead man walking.” Considering there were a lot of folks in Knoxville that wanted him fired two years ago, that’s not a big leap.

Those two openings alone are considered better jobs than Arkansas.

So, at the least, coaching the Razorbacks is third on the list in the SEC right now. We haven’t even started looking outside the conference. There are possibilities of an opening at Texas A&M and Auburn also in the league and both of those are also considered by most to be a better job than in Fayetteville.

We haven’t even gotten to other possible openings around the country. Nebraska, for example, could affect SEC job openings as it’s likely the Cornhuskers will go after Scott Frost if Mike Riley is canned as expected.

Frost was expected to be a primary target for the Gators. At first, Dan Mullen figured to be a candidate at Florida, but we’ve heard from too many different sources he and athletics director Scott Strickland got enough of each other in six years and Mullen likes it better in Starkville with John Cohen in charge.

Would Long really be trying to find a coach with four other openings in the SEC at the same time?

Let’s face it, last time Long was trying to find a coach he got turned down everywhere he went and somehow talked himself into believing Bielema was the answer despite the fact just a small amount of research would have created enough red flags to toss that idea on the pile.

We’ve heard going after Kirby Smart would have been the next option, but that never would have worked. During that same search Smart walked out of an interview with Auburn about two minutes into it because they weren’t totally committed to winning.

Long might figure, well, it’s not THAT bad with coach winning just under half of the games he’s coached and somewhere south of 30 percent of his conference games.

Hey, the new North End Zone boxes are completely sold and there’s a waiting list for luxury boxes everywhere else.

And, besides, there’s more to a football program than wins and losses. Especially at a school that’s not a win-at-all-cost type program.

Hey, don’t blame me … that’s what Long has said in the past.

All he has to do is figure out how to make it to Thanksgiving. He does have those College Football Playoff responsibilities every week. He’s not the chairman anymore, but he’s still one of the guys making the decision.

It’s just one of those detours along the road he has to navigate.

The first week of November will be what looks like a smooth, straight stretch and about Sunday will take a hard turn south.

LSU will be a pothole that could knock the front end out of alignment. Mississippi State the next week could be the speed bump that knocks half the undercarriage off the vehicle.

And Missouri the day after Thanksgiving is the blind curve to be navigated.

The only positive is he’ll spend a month around some folks that could be used to bounce ideas off. At least a trial run that no one knows about (and thus far the CFP has kept a lid on everything that goes on).

Get ready.

November could be fun.

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