The South Carolina Gamecocks and Arkansas Razorbacks have a unique shared history as football programs.
They joined the SEC together in 1991, they’ve been each others permanent cross division foe for as long as most SC students can remember, and until this year, they were both on a similar trajectory up the ranks of their respective divisions.
Bobby Petrino, like Steve Spurrier at Carolina, built Arkansas into a program that SEC powerhouses couldn’t brush aside.
Petrino had his Razorbacks in serious national championship discussion before this season started.
After all, his teams in 2010 and 2011 did post back-to-back seasons of 10 or more wins.
Steve Spurrier had his team in in national title discussions, too, but a little later on in the year. Before Carolina lost back-to-back games against LSU and Florida, the Gamecocks were sitting pretty at No. 3 in the nation.
Neither team is in the hunt for a title now, but the reasons why are starkly different.
Unlike Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks, Arkansas was out of the BCS title picture before the season even started.
Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle accident involving a female team assistant not named Mrs. Petrino left Arkansas no choice but to fire him.
The man who replaced him, J.L. Smith, never had a shot to make this team great.
A few weeks into the season QB Tyler Wilson was calling his teammates out, the public learned bout the crazy amount of debt Smith was in, and a few weeks later the Hogs found themselves all but mathematically eliminated from the post season.
Unless the Razorbacks can win two of their final three games, all against ranked, and vastly superior opponents, Arkansas will have gone from potential powerhouse to all-out-landslide in less than a year.
While Spurrier’s team might not be playing for a title anymore, they do have plenty left to fight for. A Sugar Bowl berth, a second straight 11 win season, and a fourth straight win over Clemson are all on the table right now.
The disparity that now exists between the two schools proves just how important the head coach is, and exactly how fickle life can be in the SEC.