It’s time for Arkansas to beat Auburn again.
It might not happen, but the Razorbacks need it to happen.
This isn’t just about getting to the best bowl possible, or even simply becoming bowl eligible. This is more about Arkansas’ status as a program. If the Razorbacks want to continue to establish themselves as a program on the rise, they have to beat programs that are reeling.
Auburn has been competitive in some of its games this year, but its only SEC win was over a Missouri team that literally tossed the would-be game-winning touchdown into the end zone for a game-losing touchback that may have saved Auburn coach Bryan Harsin’s job. Many Auburn fans are in what I call The Dark Place, which is the horrible fan zone where you cheer against your own team in hopes that losses will cause the coach to be fired.
Looking Ahead to Arkansas vs Auburn
Harsin has defied some expectations by making it through Auburn’s bye week. Could a loss to Arkansas be what causes Auburn to pull the trigger on him? It could be. Since that Missouri “win”, Auburn has fallen to LSU, Georgia and Ole Miss. The Tigers have shown a bit of fight in the LSU and Ole Miss games, so they haven’t quit and won’t roll over for the Razorbacks, but they haven’t been impressive in any particular way.
As much as it has reclaimed its pride in recent years, Arkansas has not had much success against Auburn over the last decade. The Hogs have officially lost eight of the last nine games between the two teams (we say “officially” because the 2020 officiating debacle is on the Mount Rushmore of rage-inducing moments for many Hog fans – myself included. My Minnesota neighbors at the time heard Southern cussin’ on a scale that easily could have resulted in multiple calls to the law.)
The game last year in Fayetteville was maybe the most disappointing performance of the season for Arkansas. The Razorbacks’ lone win in that span came in the four-overtime classic in Fayetteville in 2015.
Historical Context for Arkansas vs Auburn
The Arkansas-Auburn series was not always so one-sided. In the 20 games from 1993-2012, the two schools split the games evenly. Even John L. Smith smiled on The Plains when Arkansas pulled off the upset in 2012. Houston Nutt won half his games against the Tigers, including knocking them off in 2006 when they were ranked No. 2 in the country as Darren McFadden led the Hogs to the SEC West title.
The importance of Arkansas picking up one more game in the total historical context of this series may lie in the tusk of the beholder. It’s only one game, but we all know how it felt to give away the game against Texas A&M in September. For many, the sinking feeling wasn’t just about losing the one game, but because of how often Arkansas has lost to the Aggies since they joined the SEC. The Southwest Classic has been a source of heartbreak and frustration to the point that playing in Arlington, which for the first several years of the series felt like a treat, is now something most fans seem to want end as soon as possible.
I would argue that it’s important for the Razorbacks to establish that they can be and currently are better than Auburn. There are still only six schools in the SEC who have won the SEC Championship Game, and whenever the Hogs have a chance to knock off one of them, they have to seize the opportunity.
It’s always possible Auburn makes a series of mistakes with coaches and goes through a decade like what Arkansas has been crawling out of, or the 15-year stretch that Tennessee may be leaving in its past. Make no mistake, many of us would take great pleasure in watching that happen, but the Tigers are unlikely to sit idly by in their current status for long.
Arkansas Football Fighting for Bowl Eligibility
A loss to Auburn would not only waste an opportunity to further solidify Arkansas’ level within the SEC, but it would also significantly increase the pressure on the team just to make a bowl this season. The Razorbacks would need to win two of their last four games to earn eligibility, and after this weekend, none of them appear to be easy wins.
Liberty has long been seen as one of the most winnable games on Arkansas’ schedule, but it just blasted BYU more easily than Arkansas did, winning 41-14 with a third-string quarterback and shutting the Cougars out over the last three quarters. LSU has flip-flopped between beautiful incompetence and looking pretty good, and this weekend knocked off previously unbeaten Ole Miss in Baton Rouge.
It will be interesting to see how the Rebels respond to their first loss. Missouri hasn’t been impressive this season other than coming close to upsetting Georgia, but the Hogs have never won a football game in Columbia, and the stress of needing that game to earn bowl eligibility is something nobody needs.
That being said, all those games are winnable. The Razorbacks have the offense to play with anyone. The defense, on the other hand – we’ll just hope they get some players back from injury. That’s why this game isn’t a must-win in the sense that the season is over if Arkansas loses. There is still plenty to play for no matter what happens on The Plains, but the Razorbacks must have the same urgency that we saw in Provo. The team has flashed its potential this season, and the Hogs are favored because of it. The Razorbacks must seize their opportunity this week.
Bryan Harsin on Arkansas vs Auburn
In a recent press conference, Harsin previewed the game for which Auburn is a 3.5 point underdog according to the best paying online casino. Here is an excerpt:
“As far as defending him, you’ve got to tackle him,” Harsin said of Hogs quarterback KJ Jefferson. “If he’s running the ball, you’ve got to tackle him. You’ve got to have somebody in position to do that. And then overall, you’ve got to be ready for some of the things they do with him. He’s not always going to run the ball. He may show that and he may throw it.”
“KJ, now he’s different,” Harsin added on Wedneday. “Really big, really physical. I think he plays with a lot of poise.”
Later, Harsin added: “I think they’re [Auburn football coaches] creative on the offensive side with what they do with him. And just his overall physicality, he provides a different element at the quarterback position. He can throw up and down the field if he chooses to.”
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