Auburn vs. Arkansas: 23 1/2 Days and Counting

I don’t know about you folks, but I am chomping at the bit to get the 2014 college football season underway! There are twenty one days before we get some SEC action and two days after that the first full slate of games kick off. Bring it on!

The Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks square off at 4:00 PM EDT on Saturday August 30th at Jordan-Hare Stadium on the new SEC Network. This will be the 23rd meeting between the two schools with Auburn holding a 12-10-1 edge over the Hawgs in this relatively young series. The first time the teams teed it up was in the 1984 Liberty Bowl. Auburn won that game 21-15 on the strength of MVP Bo Jackson’s 88 yards rushing. His 39 yard touchdown run put the Tigers up 21-9 and Auburn’s defense held on to preserve the victory.

Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992 and the teams met for the first time that year as SEC West rivals. The game ended in a frustrating 24-24 tie. Ironically, Bo Jackson’s number 34 was retired at halftime of the game. Both teams had disappointing seasons in ’92. Neither team had a winning record. 1992 would also mark the last campaign for Auburn under head coach Pat Dye.

The series has also been one of frustration for the Auburn Family. On more than one occasion a Tiger team has come into the game ranked and come out on the losing end of things. My record, in games I have attended, is 6-7-1. That will not do.

There are multiple games between these divisional foes that stick in my craw. One such game occurred during the 2006 season. The Tigers entered the game with a 5-0 record and ranked number two in the country. Visions of an SEC Championship were beginning to formulate in the minds of the Auburn faithful. It was a brilliantly sunny day on The Plains and hopes were high for the home team.

The unranked Razorbacks, under Coach Houston Nutt, were 3-1.The one loss was a lopsided 50-14 defeat at the hands of the sixth ranked USC Trojans in Fayetteville. They squeaked by Vanderbilt 21-19 in Nashville and two weeks prior to their visit to The Plains they handed Alabama a tough 24-23 loss in a game which was also played in Fayetteville. It didn’t seem that the Hawgs has developed a true sense of identity yet. They had a pair of superb running backs in Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but they had a true freshman at quarterback in Mitch Mustain.

In an interesting aside, Arkansas had hired a high school coach as offensive coordinator for the the 2006 season. He was an excellent, even legendary, high school coach in the annals of Arkansas football history. His teams had won multiple state championships at different levels but he had absolutely ZERO college coaching experience. Some Razorback assistant coaches, reportedly, had taunted him at pre-season practices by calling him “high school.”

Arthur Gustav Malzahn was this coach’s name. But he was simply known as Gus.

Fast forward to 2009. Gus was hired by Gene Chizik as offensive coordinator at Auburn University. After the one season at Arkansas, in which the Razorbacks went 7-1 in the SEC and won the West Division, Malzahn spent two seasons at Tulsa in the same capacity. Tulsa led the nation in total offense in both 2007 and 2008.

That brings us to 2010. Auburn goes on an improbable 14-0 run and captures the BCS National Championship. During that season the Auburn offense set school records in points per game at 41.2, total yards at 6,989, total offense per game at 499.2, rushing yards at 3,987 per contest, rushing touchdowns at 41 and passing touchdowns at 31. BOOM!

Now we all know what transpired in 2013. After one season as head coach at Arkansas State, Auburn hired Arthur Gustav Malzahn to become it’s 26th head coach. The Tigers won the SEC Championship and came within 13 seconds of winning the BCS National Championship for the second time in four years.

Yes, sports fans, we now find ourselves just over three weeks from the kickoff of the 2014 college football season. The SEC and season opener for these two schools, Auburn and Arkansas, is fast approaching. They are pitted against each other. Arkansas is not ranked in the coaches pre-season poll. Auburn stands at number five. The Tigers have been established as 21 point favorites. The opinion here is that they will cover said spread. BOOM!

Good people, in 23 days, 1 1/2 hours and counting we shall hear: “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Jordan-Hare Stadium for today’s game between the Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks.” As I stated at the top of this column, “I am chomping at the bit!”

How about you ?

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