The Ole Miss-Arkansas rivalry has been marked by an allegedly ineligible player, a game with seven overtimes, a 4th and 25 miracle (or tragedy) and H***ton N*tt.
The Rebels and Razorbacks first met on the gridiron on October 10, 1908, a game Arkansas won 33-0. These two schools have met 65 times total since then.
In this strange conference rivalry, there isn’t a consensus on the actual series standings. If you ask Arkansas, they lead the series 36-28-1, but according to Ole Miss, the Razorbacks lead the series 35-29-1.
The game in question between these two schools came in 1914, a game that, according to Arkansas, saw the Rebels utilize an ineligible player. Ole Miss denies the ineligibility of a player, thus chalking up the game as the 13-7 win reflected by the scoreboard.
That’s the least abnormal thing about the rivalry that has become a circus, especially in the last half decade.
Before last season, Arkansas had won four straight games over the Rebels. Take a look at the results stemming from 2014:
2014: Arkansas 30, Ole Miss 0 (Fayetteville, Ark.)
2015: Arkansas 53, Ole Miss 52 (OT) (Oxford, Miss.)
2016: Arkansas 34, Ole Miss 30 (Fayetteville, Ark.)
2017: Arkansas 38, Ole Miss 37 (Oxford, Miss.)
2018: Ole Miss 37, Arkansas 33 (Little Rock, Ark.)
Arkansas won a 53-52 overtime game in Oxford in 2015, the infamous “4th and 25” game, essentially ending Ole Miss’s shot at winning the SEC West and appearing in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. Arkansas won the next two years as well, 34-30 and 38-37, respectively.
The 38-37 game in 2017 was in Matt Luke’s interim head coach season. The Rebels led at one point by as much as 31-7 but an Arkansas comeback spurred by late first half heroics and an improbable second-half performance led by Cole Kelley, an offensive tackle masquerading as a quarterback, and his gang of tight ends. The Razorbacks used a Jordan Ta’amu fumble and a last-second, go-ahead field goal to beat Ole Miss.
Arkansas’s previously mentioned 4th and 25 conversion in 2015 wasn’t their only overtime win over the Rebels. In 2001, an Ole Miss team quarterbacked by a young Eli Manning forced the Hogs to seven overtime periods (an NCAA record at the time) before succumbing 58-56 in Oxford.
That game featured a combined total of 988 offensive yards and four 100-yard rushers. Last season, Ole Miss got revenge on Arkansas’s recent good fortunes, ending a streak of four straight wins by the Razorbacks with a comeback of its own on a rainy night in Little Rock, finishing the Hogs with a 37-33 final score. The last four games in this series have been decided by a combined total of 10 points.
Needless to say, this rivalry has seen its fair share of crazy finishes, and the two programs even have a past head coach in common in Houston Nutt. Nutt left Arkansas following the 2007 season and came to Ole Miss, where he coached through the 2011 season.
This year, the Rebels and Razorbacks meet uncharacteristically early, doing battle in week two of the season. Neither Ole Miss nor Arkansas are believed to be overly talented this season with Ole Miss falling to Memphis last week and Arkansas narrowly escaping Portland State.
Still, the sky isn’t the goal for these programs, but progress is. Ole Miss has not made a bowl game since the 2015 season, thanks in large part to NCAA sanctions, and finished 5-7 a season
ago. Arkansas has not made a bowl trip since the 2016 season and finished with the horrific mark of 2-10 last season. Both head coaches, Matt Luke and Chad Morris, are looking for any kind of positive step to reignite support amongst their respective fanbases, and a bowl game would definitely be a good start.
Still, in order to reach a bowl, this game almost has to be a win. For teams lacking in talent like Ole Miss and Arkansas, there are a limited number of winnable games on the schedule, and in order to reach the threshold of six wins and bowl eligibility, you need every win you can get. Ole Miss already let one slip away in Memphis last week, so this Saturday’s game against the Hogs is of the utmost importance if the Rebels hope to take the next step as a program and reach a bowl game.
This game historically gets weird quickly, and that will probably be the case again this weekend. Neither team blew critics away last week, so mistakes and sloppy play could lead to another crazy game in this rivalry.