Texas’ Arrival into SEC Pushes Arkansas to Brink of This Top 10

Arkansas football, SEC rivalries, conference realignment, Texas football
Photo Credit: ESPN

The expansion of the SEC to include Texas and Oklahoma is a move that’s set to benefit everyone involved. For the executives who put the deal together – boatloads of cold, hard cash. For the fans of SEC programs – the reigniting of flaming hot historic rivalries.

It’s a well-known fact that pretty much everybody outside of Austin hates the University of Texas. Whether it’s their behemoth mascot trying to kill a bystanding bulldog on the sidelines or their insane sensitivity when it comes to – gasp – flipping a horn symbol upside down, the Longhorns can be a very off-putting group.

Oklahoma has some annoying tendencies of its own. If you’re curious about what those might be, just tune into an OU game and you’ll hear the band play “Boomer Sooner” until your ears start bleeding. That’s not even an exaggeration, as the band plays the repetitive tune over 900 times per season.

Add in the fact that OU and UT are both prestigious programs with a long history of success, and they’ve built up a number of fierce rivalries over the years.

There’s always a discussion going on around what the best rivalries in the conference are, and the recent realignment has caused a reshuffling of that pecking order. CBS Sports’ Will Backus took a stab at ranking the SEC’s 19 nastiest matchups, which includes a bit of a slight on Arkansas.

The Best of the Best in SEC Football

The top entry on the list includes none other than the famous clash between the SEC’s debutants – the Red River Rivalry. It’s hard to argue with that given its combination of history, hatred and competitiveness. 

The Iron Bowl and the Egg Bowl also feature in the top three, which is a great shout for two matchups that always seem to produce plenty of fireworks. Alabama and Auburn’s showdowns have featured iconic moments like the Kick Six, while Mississippi’s in-state clash has brought us some cinematic moments after the whistle in recent years. Losing a season finale because you acted like a urinating dog is the stuff elite rivalry status is made of.

A noteworthy omission from the top five is the rekindled matchup between Texas and Texas A&M, which is surely going to make for better television than Georgia’s rivalries with Florida and Auburn, which are both listed ahead of the Lone Star Showdown. That rivalry extends beyond the football field, as well, with the added spice of Texas poaching Aggie baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle out of College Station.

Arkansas’ Historic Feud Misses Cut for Top 10

The biggest mistake in the article comes with Backus leaving the clash between Arkansas and Texas out of the top 10, slotting it in at No. 11. That might have been acceptable if No. 10 wasn’t what it is – a pretty mediocre rivalry between Kentucky and Tennessee.

Sure, the two programs don’t like each other – but how can a rivalry be considered nasty when one of the parties involved, frankly, doesn’t even care about football? Whether Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops likes it or not, Kentucky is a basketball school through and through. Folks in the Bluegrass State might hate Tennessee, but that passion exists more on the hardwood (and perhaps even the baseball diamond) than the gridiron.

It also can’t be ignored that the matchup hasn’t even been competitive, with Tennessee leading the all-time series 83-26-9. Backus even admits that the rivalry has a “lack in overall stakes.”

The author’s main knock on the “long-dormant feud” between Arkansas and Texas is the fact that “a good portion of college football fans aren’t old enough to remember the Southwest Conference in its heyday.”

As a 21-year-old writing this article…fair enough. But while the two teams haven’t met on a regular basis since the early 1990s, look no further than just three years ago and you’ll see that the bad blood between the Hogs and Longhorns is still alive and well.

Like many of the people reading this article, I was in attendance for that most-recent clash in Razorback Stadium. Before the game even started, you could feel the tension and energy in the stadium. That only grew with Arkansas’ dominant start to the game that saw it build a 16-0 halftime lead behind a swarming defensive performance.

The crescendo of noise reached its peak as the Hogs continued to stretch their lead in the second half, and was punctuated with a field-storming sea of red and white when the clock hit triple zeroes.

A bullish touchdown run from Rocket Sanders summed up the night for the Longhorns – outmuscled and dominated by the Razorbacks from start to finish. The physicality that the team played with and the energy buzzing throughout the stadium indicated a rivalry that is absolutely still alive and well.

Arkansas will look to follow up on this performance when the rivalry is renewed on Nov. 16 in Fayetteville, but many things have changed since then. Texas returns its star quarterback Quinn Ewers and is fresh off a College Football Playoff appearance, while the Hogs are coming off a 4-8 season. This go-around might not be as fun as the last one was for Arkansas.

Golden Boot Loses Black Friday Shine

Arkansas’ next appearance on the list comes at No. 13 with the Battle for the Golden Boot against LSU. While this rivalry might be a little past its prime days of the “Miracle on Markham” and triple-overtime victories over the top-ranked Tigers, it’s still a showdown with plenty to offer. The Hogs’ overtime victory over LSU in 2021 was certainly a thriller.

The Battle for the Boot was infamously removed from its traditional Thanksgiving weekend slot when the SEC last realigned in 2014 to make room for Arkansas and LSU to begin manufactured rivalries with Missouri and Texas A&M, respectively. That certainly takes some luster away from the clash given there aren’t those end-of-season stakes on the line anymore.

Backus makes a good point when describing the LSU rivalry, saying that “Razorback fans have plenty of animosity towards LSU, though the feeling may not be entirely reciprocated with the Tigers’ already-full ledger of sworn enemies.”

That statement is not only a good explanation for why the Arkansas-Texas matchup isn’t higher on the list, but is also applicable to most of the Hogs’ other rivals. Texas has a lot more hatred for Oklahoma and Texas A&M than it does for Arkansas. LSU will always have Alabama and even Florida circled on its calendar. Ole Miss cares more about Mississippi State and LSU.

It’s hard for Arkansas to point to a certified top rival, and likewise, the Hogs’ most-hated opponents don’t really consider them a priority. Being the state’s undisputed flagship state has its perks, but it also puts the school in a bit of a predicament by not having a designated next-door neighbor to despise.

The best way for the Hogs to stir up more hatred with their border-state rivals, particularly the Longhorns, is simply to beat them. Nothing boils the blood like a loss to a rival – especially one that you perceive yourself as being better than. Arkansas fans know that feeling all too well with the football program’s recent results against Missouri.

Arkansas’ Newer-Age SEC Rivalries

Speaking of Mizzou, the Hogs’ other two entries on the list were the Southwest Classic with Texas A&M and, of course, the Battle Line Rivalry. It’s ironic given all the fan outrage at the SEC’s manufacturing of the matchup with the Tigers, but that might actually be the Arkansas rivalry that has the most mutual hatred between the two.

Both programs love to pretend that they don’t care about the rivalry, but hate each other deep down. Arkansas fans can’t hide the fact that Missouri being an annual thorn in the football team’s side kills them. Whether it’s 48-14 on-field drubbings or head coach Eli Drinkwitz poaching Arkansas’ best in-state products and then rubbing it in on social media, Missouri has a stranglehold on this one as things stand.

The same is unfortunately true for the Southwest Classic, where the Razorbacks have managed just one win in the last 12 years against the Aggies.

A surprising omission from the list is Arkansas’ annual matchup with Ole Miss, which always seems to produce chaos and high-scoring affairs, whether it be iconic moments like the Henry Heave or the 52-51 thriller in Oxford in 2021.

The new-look SEC is set to produce a flurry of high-stakes matchups from existing and past rivalries. Those rivalries are what make college football great, so here’s to hoping Arkansas can rekindle some vintage vitriol in the coming years with its most-hated opponents.

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Remember the good times…here’s the highlights from Arkansas’ all-out assault on Texas in 2021:

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Plus, it looks like Petrino and Long have bumped into each other again…

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