Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

A farewell to the SEC West: Alabama prepares to play Arkansas for last-ever annual matchup

CW/ Riley Thompson
Alabama wide receiver Kobe Prentice (#6) makes a catch against Texas A&M on Oct. 7 in College Station, Texas.

College football is changing. 

You can love it, you can hate it, but you cannot deny it. 

With the upcoming admission of Texas and Oklahoma into the SEC, conference commissioner Greg Sankey has made the decision to disband the East and West divisions that have been a staple of the conference since 1992. 

As a member of the SEC West, Alabama has played the same six schools every year, no matter what. The Crimson Tide plays LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas on its yearly schedule. 

Now, that is no more. Instead, teams will have three permanent opponents, which they will still play annually.  

For Alabama, those three are Tennessee, LSU and, of course, Auburn. These three rivalries will continue to flourish for years to come. 

But what about the rest? 

What about the Alabama-Texas A&M game, which in the past 12 years has produced six one-score games — including three straight — provided us with a national introduction to one of the most iconic figures the sport has ever seen, and entertained us with what may be the biggest head coaching rivalry in the country? 

What about the Alabama-Ole Miss game, which was first played in 1894, has provided us with countless great games over the decades, and in recent years has served as a homecoming of for Saban apostle Lane Kiffin? 

What about the Alabama-Mississippi State game, which has been nicknamed the Battle of Highway 82 because of how close the two teams are to each other, and is the most played matchup in the history of Alabama football? 

And what about the Alabama-Arkansas game? Yes, it lacks a lot of the juice that some of those other matchups have but it still serves as a yearly tradition at this point, an anticipated game between two of the South’s largest and most history-rich football programs. 

And that history takes us back to 1961. 

It was Paul “Bear” Bryant’s fourth season in Tuscaloosa, and his career was not off to the start that people had hoped. 

After failing to qualify for a bowl in 1958, his Crimson Tide lost to Penn State in the first Liberty Bowl, then followed it up by tying with Texas in the Bluebonnet Bowl the next year. 

1961 was the year it all came together for Alabama. The Crimson Tide were 11-0 and had just been named national champion following its victory in the Iron Bowl.  

And then Alabama headed to New Orleans to try and cap the season off with a win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. 

Fans were treated to a defensive masterpiece. 

“They played like it was a sin to give up a point,” Bryant said about his defense postgame. 

Alabama defeated future Pro Football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth and the Razorbacks 10-3 to cap off one of the greatest seasons in college football history.  

The teams played just one more time in the next 30 years until 1992, when the Razorbacks joined the SEC with South Carolina, prompting the aforementioned formation of divisions.  

Over the past 30 years, the teams have played in numerous big-time games.  

There was 1995, when the Razorbacks went into Tuscaloosa and stunned Gene Stallings and the Crimson Tide 20-19.  

The win pushed Arkansas above Alabama in the SEC West standings and allowed the Razorbacks to play for the SEC championship later that year.  

There was 2003, the first year of the Mike Shula era, when Cedric Cobbs ran for almost 200 yards as Arkansas pulled off a 21-point comeback to stun the Crimson Tide in double overtime. 

There was 2006, when the game once again went into double overtime, and Arkansas once again pulled off the victory en route to another SEC championship appearance. 

And there was 2021, a ranked matchup the week before the Iron Bowl when Treylon Burks caught eight passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns, and Razorback punter Reid Bauer threw a fourth-quarter touchdown in an absolute thriller that Alabama ultimately ended up winning 42-35.  

At the end of the day, these are just some of the highlights of a series that has been one of the most lopsided in SEC history.  

Alabama has won 24 out of the 31 games played between the teams since the Razorbacks joined the conference. Furthermore, the Crimson Tide is 16-0 since Saban took over, and 11 of those 16 wins were by three or more scores.  

This is not a very competitive series.  

But it is still tradition.  

This Saturday, Alabama and Arkansas are set to play in their last-ever annual matchup. The Crimson Tide will probably win, and it will probably win by a lot. But this game is not about the final score.  

It’s about celebrating the history and traditions of two historic college football programs one final time before they go their separate ways. 


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