FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A few months back, SEC Country Arkansas held a poll asking readers which team was Arkansas’ biggest football rival. LSU won by a healthy margin, but the team with the second-most votes was something of a surprise. Based off those votes, it makes this week even more significant than usual.
By this point, most know that Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is coaching for his job with the Aggies. It’s possible, even, Sumlin is let go after the next rough loss Texas A&M incurs. Depending on the strength of one’s belief, similar thoughts have been had about Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. Unemployment lurks.
Not immediately. The stakes to the game on Sept. 23 could not be higher for a Week 4 contest, however. That is, assuming Texas A&M beats Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.
From the Arkansas perspective, it’s because of the history with Texas A&M, both recent and not so recent. The Aggies received the second-most votes as Arkansas’ rival. Part of it from the old Southwest Conference days. Part of it from the last 10 years, when the Southwest Classic became a thing.
With that context in mind, let’s look at the five most significant games these teams have produced; the five biggest games that have led to this rivalry and that have led to the massive consequences that hang in one week.
Note: These are in chronological order, not order of significance
5. 1975 – Arkansas 31, Texas A&M 6
Why is a lopsided, 25-point win on the list? Because this isn’t a ranking of the best games in the teams’ history. It’s a ranking of the most significant. Texas A&M entered this game, the regular-season finale, No. 2 in the nation. A win over Arkansas almost definitely would have guaranteed Texas A&M playing for the national championship in the Cotton Bowl. Instead, the Razorbacks won in a walkover. Arkansas, Texas A&M and Texas finished in a three-way tie atop the SWC, and the real groundwork was laid for a rivalry.
4. 1986 – Arkansas 14, Texas A&M 10
Both teams were rolling in the mid-1980s. The Aggies had just won the SWC and were ranked ninth in the nation. Arkansas was 17th entering the game in Little Rock. Texas A&M had a chance for a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds, but the ball was tipped away at the goal line and the Razorbacks held, ruining an excellent bowl shot for Texas A&M.
3. 2009 – Arkansas 47, Texas A&M 19
No one expected much out of Texas A&M in 2009. The Aggies were coming off a 4-win season the year before in the Big 12. But they were still unbeaten entering the fourth game of the season, and Arkansas was only a 5-win team in 2008. Texas A&M jumped to a 10-0 lead and saw it vanish in a snap. This was the first Bobby Petrino-led win at Arkansas that got people truly excited about where the Razorbacks could be headed.
2. 2012 – Texas A&M 58, Arkansas 10
This was the first Southwest Classic that involved Texas A&M in the SEC. It was an absolute blowout. Arkansas fell to 1-4 in John L. Smith’s only season as coach. The game signaled the Razorbacks were not going to “turn things around” in SEC play, a small hope some had held after a miserable nonconference slate. This game is on here largely because this is the first of a five-game winning streak the Aggies hold against Arkansas.
1. 2014 and 2015 – Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28/Texas A&M 28, Arkansas 21 – both games in overtime
Two times Arkansas had the Aggies in its sights, a win almost in hand. Two times blown. The Razorbacks held a two-possession lead in the fourth quarter in 2014 and let Texas A&M tie it, then win on its first overtime possession. In 2015, Arkansas was up by 8 points with 3 minutes left. Texas A&M scored a touchdown, the ensuing 2-point conversion and won again on its first overtime possession.