Last year’s Auburn-Arkansas matchup has been recognized throughout the course of this week.
In various fashions, players and coaches have discredited, remembered, been motivated by or forgotten the four-overtime contest played in 2015. But it’s just one of many nail-biting games in the rivalry over the last decade. Coincidentally, the result of that game has a strong correlation to Auburn’s eventual season outcome.
The Tigers are 12-11 against the Razorbacks since the every-year rivalry picked up in 1993 (ignoring the 1992 tie). Time for a fun cause-and-effect chart.
- Average wins in seasons Auburn beats Arkansas: 10.0
- Average wins in seasons Auburn loses to Arkansas: 6.7
It’s not a news flash that losing a game hurts season-win totals. But for this rivalry to have a 3.2-game sway on average wins shows how pivotal the Auburn-Arkansas game can be for this regular midseason rendezvous. Granted, the win total stat isn’t a tell-all for how this season will unfold based on Saturday’s results.
But, look below. It’s the top 5 games in the rivalry in the last 10 years. Take note of how close so many of these contests have been — and the role it played on the narrative for the rest of each team’s respective seasons.
5. Arkansas 25, Auburn 22 (2008)
This one makes the list more for pregame conversation merit than anything else.
It was former Auburn offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino’s return to Jordan-Hare as the Razorbacks head coach. Then-Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville fired Tony Franklin the week of the game. Auburn, ranked 20th in the country, knew another loss would send it spiraling down the SEC standings.
Despite a 19-10 third-quarter lead, Auburn couldn’t withstand a few big plays from 5-foot-7 running back Michael Smith. Kodi Burns and Chris Todd both contributed to an inefficient performance from the quarterback position. Arkansas took the lead and never relinquished it. The Tigers plummeted to a 5-7 season.
4. Auburn 35, Arkansas 17 (2013)
Auburn lacked sizable wins against quality opponents. Auburn countered that trend against the Razorbacks during a national championship trek. Bret Bielema continued his role as a first-year punching bag, as Arkansas fell to 0-5 in SEC play.
Auburn, on the other hand, headed the other direction. It took Auburn to 8-1 and, well, you know the rest of the story. This victory meant more for implication purposes than it did the history of this rivalry, but it had some interesting moments.
It became the full-time emergence of Tre Mason, who injected himself in the Heisman discussion. Mason rushed the ball 32 times for 168 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Tigers held a double-digit lead from the 10-minute mark in the second quarter to the final whistle.
3. Auburn 65, Arkansas 43 (2010)
The 2010 and 2013 seasons had many similarities — the dynamic of the Arkansas game being one of them.
Prior to the Arkansas game in 2010, Auburn hadn’t confidently proved its ability to appear like a front-running BCS title game candidate. The Tigers played one-possession games with Mississippi State, Clemson, South Carolina and Kentucky.
This one made teams start fearing Cam Newton and his sidekicks.
Newton had 140 yards passing and 188 yards rushing. Altogether, he combined for 4 touchdowns. And the most exciting part? Auburn needed as many points as it could get. Arkansas took a lead early in the fourth quarter, thanks to a crew of Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson, Greg Childs and Knile Davis (quite an NFL-filled game offensively).
It set the tone for a few close victories, a blowout SEC Championship Game win and Auburn’s 2010 national championship.
2. Auburn 9, Arkansas 7 (2007)
How cool was Wes Byrum? Well, after hitting the game-winning field goal *twice* against Florida, the Auburn kicker accounted for all the Tigers points in the 2007 victory over the Razorbacks.
The game also included two Byrum misses, but he drilled the game-winner with 21 seconds remaining to move Auburn to 5-2 after a pair of early losses to South Florida and Mississippi State. Brandon Cox’s 101-yard performance was par for the course, but Brad Lester and Ben Tate combined for 180 yards rushing.
Conversely, the Razorbacks dynamic duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones only amounted 85 yards on the ground. Auburn ended the year 9-4.
1. Arkansas 54, Auburn 46 4OT (2015)
Not the favorite result for Auburn fans, but certainly the best game.
As written Tuesday, last year’s contest has little-to-zero influence on the 2016 edition. And, to a certain extent, that’s probably true. But the 2015 version took Auburn to the tipping point, and the way the Tigers fell in quadruple overtime won’t be easy to forget, as hard as Montravius Adams said he’s trying.
The loss showed several positive signs: A defense that stepped up toward the end of regulation, Sean White’s ability to lead and Daniel Carlson’s late-game kicking heroics. Still, The Tigers dropped to a 7-6 final record.