Saturday’s Arkansas-Alabama game pits more than two common opponents on the field; it pits history against the odds. After last Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Louisiana-Monroe, which included four major injuries of QB Tyler Wilson (day-to-day), CB Tevin Mitchel (Out), HB/FB Kody Walker (Out for Season), and CB Kaelon Kellybrew (Playing) was added on to Arkansas losing FB/LB Kiero Small (8-12 weeks), the odds became stacked against Arkansas to beat highly ranked Alabama. The Hogs made a nose dive plummet from #8 in the nation to dropping out of the AP’s Top 25 Poll and falling to #21 in the Coaches Poll. Alabama has looked very impressive the last couple of weeks, ripping apart a highly touted, highly ranked Michigan team in Cowboy’s Stadium in Arlington, Texas and beating Western Kentucky 35-0 in Tuscaloosa. The Tide is firmly in everybody’s Top 3, if not nearly everybody’s consensus #1. It’s very obvious that the chips are stacked against Arkansas in this contest by every odds-maker, pollster, and national pundits and experts. The current line has set Alabama as a 21-point favorite, with most people taking Alabama to win by more than 21 points. That line keeps increasing every day as well, and is one of the top 2 biggest lines for the weekend’s menu of games. But, just because the odds are set against the Razorbacks, doesn’t mean that history can’t repeat itself.
While doing some research today, I found some interesting historical data. The Hogs are a measly 10-34-1 against Top 3 teams all-time. However, if you break that down, Arkansas lost a combined 12-straight games against Top 3 teams from 1941-1964. That included 7 losses to Texas, a loss to Texas A&M, a loss to Baylor, two losses to Ole Miss, and a loss to Alabama. In the Razorbacks 1964 National Title winning season, the Hogs beat top-ranked Texas in Austin 14-13 on a Ken Hatfield returned punt in the final minutes of the game. The Hogs would again beat top-ranked Texas in Fayetteville in 1965 by a score of 27-24. The Hogs would go on to lose three straight games against top-3 teams from 1969 to 1973, including a 15-14 loss in the “Game of the Century” between 10-0 #2 Arkansas and 10-0 #1 Texas in Fayetteville with President Nixon in attendance. The Razorbacks snapped that 3-game skid with a 31-6 effort against Texas A&M in 1975 but would also drop a game in 1977 against Texas. Following that trade of wins and losses, the Hogs won 2-straight against Top-3 talent, beating #2 Oklahoma in the 1978 Orange Bowl (1977 season) 31-6 and Texas in 1979. In the 1980 Sugar Bowl (1979 season), the Hogs lost a tough one to Alabama but bounced back in 1981 with a 42-11 drubbing of #1 Texas in Fayetteville. In the final game of the 1982 season, the Hogs tied SMU 17-17 in Dallas. Following the tie to SMU, the Hogs would drop 5-straight games against Top-3 teams, which included two losses to Texas, two losses to Miami, and a loss to Oklahoma. The Hogs picked up a 43-3 win against Alabama in 1993, but would then go on to lose 4-straight, three of which came against Florida and one against Tennessee in 1998. In 1999, the Hogs bounced back with a 28-24 win against Tennessee in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks then lost 3-straight, two of which came against LSU in 2003 and 2005 with one being an embarrassing loss to eventual national champion USC in Los Angeles. After the three game skid, the Hogs would then go on to win two straight against Auburn in 2006 and against #1 LSU, in Baton Rouge, in 2007. The Hogs are currently on a five game skid, with three losses coming to this week’s opponent Alabama, one to Florida in 2009, and one to LSU in 2011. The five-game losing streak against Top-3 teams ties the longest losing streak against Top-3 teams since Arkansas’ 12-straight losses from 1941 to 1964, with the only other 5-game skid being from 1983 to 1993. Guess who Arkansas beat to end that 5-game skid? That’s right, a Top 3 Alabama team in Fayetteville.
The pundits will talk, and history can speak for itself, but the fact of the matter is, the only way the game will be determined is between the white lines on Saturday. There will only be two teams playing each other between those white lines, and those teams will be a hurting and now unranked Arkansas team and a thriving and highly ranked Alabama team, but the unknown game being played this weekend is the odds vs history. Who will win? That will be determined by the performance on the field.