Oct. 31, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. – They are days that will live in Auburn infamy. And they are among the reasons that football games against Arkansas make some Auburn folks nervous.
On Oct. 12, 2002, Auburn was on a roll with four consecutive wins and was ranked No. 24 when unranked Arkansas came to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Razorbacks won 38-17, but that wasn’t the worst of it. They rushed for 426 yards, 241 by Fred Talley.
Talley, who started only because Cedric Cobbs was injured, was amazed at the lack of resistance.
"Sometimes, I was feeling like they blew the play dead or something,'' Talley said after the game. “I could hesitate and make moves without anybody in my way.''
Auburn went on to go 9-4 with gut-wrenching losses to Florida and Georgia. Had the Tigers beaten Arkansas they would have played in the SEC Championship Game.
On Oct. 7, 2006, Auburn was thinking national championship, and with good reason. The Tigers were 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation. They were hefty favorites over Arkansas and first-year offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
The Razorbacks ran for 279 yards and threw for 213 and the Tigers’ national championship hopes melted away.
Those are the two most prominent examples of Arkansas messing things up for Auburn, but they’re hardly the only ones. Since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992, they’ve been a frequent thorn in Auburn’s side. In 1995, 2001 and 2002, the Tigers would have played in the SEC Championship Game had it beaten the Razorbacks.
Last season, Auburn had taken LSU to the wire in a 12-10 loss and was coming off an open date. Arkansas had been outscored 110-10 by Alabama Texas A&M and had lost to Rutgers and Louisiana-Monroe. At Jordan-Hare Stadium, Arkansas scored 17 fourth-quarter points and ran away to a 24-7 victory. Auburn’s season started a downward spiral that didn’t end until the last game had been played.
Auburn faces another big game against Arkansas on Saturday in Fayetteville. The Tigers, in Malzahn’s first season, are rolling at 7-1 and are ranked No. 8 in the nation. Arkansas is struggling with five consecutive losses and a 3-5 record.
Since divisional play started in 1992, Auburn is 11-10 against Alabama and 10-11 against LSU. It is fared no better against Arkansas, going 10-10-1 - 5-5 in Fayetteville and 5-5-1 at home.
Why has Auburn struggled against Arkansas? Why has it lost big games to the Razorbacks and no games at all to South Carolina, which joined the league at the same time? I’ve heard lots of theories, but it’s just one of those strange things that happens in college football. The bottom line is the Razorbacks have won five of the last seven meetings.
Could it happen again Saturday? It would be a surprise, but it could. Arkansas’ last four losses have been to ranked teams. It had last Saturday and will be playing with desperation after giving up 104 unanswered points against Alabama on the road and South Carolina at home. First-year head coach Bret Bielema has, for some reason, decided to try to pick a fight with Malzahn. Will that have any impact on the game? I doubt it.
In the end, games are decided on the field. This one will be no different.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: