Forget Texas – Alabama is the New Rival for Razorback Football
After the Fourth of July, the days just drag on if you are a football fan waiting for preseason practice to roll around in August. What you need is a good topic to debate as you count down the days to freshmen reporting.
So instead of talking about the Razorbacks playing ASU, who is your favorite Razorback of all-time, or coming up with the caller hall of fame for Drive Time Sports, this week’s column is devoted to something that is more important than most fans realize -- a Razorback rivalry.
Let’s step back in time to the old Southwest Conference. Arkansas’ rival was Texas, and while Texas didn’t consider us their primary rival all the time, there was no debating who Arkansas fans loved to hate the most. For some, Texas still is the main rival to this day.
But the reality is that Texas was every team’s rival in the SWC and also probably Oklahoma’s, which was not even in the conference. How you did against Texas was a barometer of your team. If you could beat Texas, you were good.
Even when Texas was bad, they were still tough to beat. The Horns always had talent and they knew how to compete. Game after game, Texas got every team’s best shot, especially from the Razorbacks.
Now step back to today with the Razorbacks in the SEC for two decades. You may not believe it and you may not accept it, but your main rival in the SEC is Alabama, just like it is for Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Auburn, and everyone else. The Crimson Tide is the team you have to beat.
This was not lost on Bret Bielema a couple of months ago when speaking at a Razorback Club event. He was quoted as saying, “The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn't come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama.”
That was maybe not the smartest thing for Bielema to say in public if you have any concern about raising the ire of Nick Saban if he even cares, but what Bielema said is the correct.
I know it’s great to beat LSU, and it is a great border rivalry that has been manufactured into something it really isn’t and now is threatened to be diminished if the game is moved off Thanksgiving weekend. The Crimson Tide is the team the Razorbacks have to beat.
The Razorbacks were so close in 2010 in Fayetteville and let it slip away. It was a spectacular Razorback team and it’s the reason they were able to take them to the wire. But in the end, Arkansas is a mere 7-14 against Alabama since joining the SEC.
Alabama is the bellwether of the conference. When Tennessee was good, they were beating Alabama. When Florida was good, they were beating Alabama. If the Hogs want to be good, they will have to beat Alabama.
When the Razorbacks entered the conference for the first few years, they had a decent record against Alabama, probably one of the better ones in the conference. It has since slipped away. The Razorbacks have not beaten the Tide since its overtime win in Fayetteville in 2006. In 2007, the Razorbacks probably beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa if Darren McFadden does not get knocked out. But opportunities have been few in the Nick Saban era.
If there was one knock on Bobby Petrino’s coaching days at Arkansas, it was that he could not beat Alabama. Bielema has set the right mark. He knows he has to beat them to win SEC championships and national championships. The road to these goals goes through Alabama.
Therefore, your rival is Alabama just like it was Texas in the SEC. It does not matter if everyone else considers them their rival also.
And it does not matter if Alabama does not consider the Razorbacks their rival. If the Razorbacks start beating the Crimson Tide, guess what? The Hogs will become the Tides’ rival for sure.
I promise next season the one game circled on Alabama’s schedule is Texas A&M. Why? Because they beat the Tide last year and kept them from a perfect record and a perfect season. They have a score to settle.
During the 1960s, the Razorbacks were the Longhorns’ rival because the teams had so many titanic matchups, and the Razorbacks held their own in winning games against them. This faded as the Razorbacks struggled to beat them in later years.
It’s lofty talk by Bret Bielema, and he may pay the price this season when he faces Saban, but he’s right. He has to beat his rival Alabama to achieve his goals.
The road to SEC championships sure doesn’t run through Missouri.
Send your most hated rival to email@example.com.