October 18, 2014
War Memorial Stadium
Overall Record: 9-4-0
Last 10 Meetings: 8-2
Richt vs. Arkansas: 5-1
After privately lobbying to get the Arkansas job in the lead up to the 2012 season, Bret Bielema learned – real time – just how difficult the SEC can be in 2013. That’s not to suggest that he didn’t know it ahead of time, but watching it from afar and living it in real person is a very different thing.
After successfully guiding Wisconsin to three Rose Bowls in a row, Bielema inherited an Arkansas program that had fallen on difficult times thanks to a recklessly selfish head coach (Bobby Petrino) who literally wrecked the program and what little respect was left for him as a human being.
Arkansas, as a program, has always had its ups and downs, but Petrino’s selfishness not only made the Hogs the laughing stock of the SEC (which, when you think about it, is really saying something), but his actions also led to Arkansas’ first winless football season in conference play since World War II.
It has gotten bad in Arkansas.
Arkansas, somewhat like South Carolina, isn’t a traditional SEC power, but can rise to challenge the big boys – particularly when there is turbulence at the top of the division (and traditional powers like Auburn, Tennessee and Florida have proved that the mighty can fall hard in the SEC). When the opening is there, the Hogs can strike to win the division. But for the most part, getting in front of Auburn, LSU and Bama is a chore that’s too much to ask for the non-elites of the West year in and year out.
Georgia’s history with Arkansas is dotted with meetings that seem to hit the calendar at oddball times. The two played one another in the final game before Arkansas joined the SEC in 1991. The Hogs traveled to Athens for the first football weekend after the tragedy of September 11th. The pair have met only 13 times in their long histories, but have managed to play those 13 games in seven (New Orleans, Dallas, Memphis, Shreveport, Fayetteville, Athens and Atlanta) different locations, so this matchup is well traveled and that will be the case again this year.
The location of this season’s game, in fact, is a little odd. The two will meet at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. It’s the state’s capital, but is three hours from Arkansas’ campus in Fayetteville. Arkansas has a long history of playing in Little Rock, but that seems to be going away for good soon. Arkansas’ athletic department wants to get away from playing in Little Rock for a slew of reasons, but mainly because of travel. So they are paying more than $1.2 million in penalties to play only one game in the state capital rather than two over the next four years.
So, once more the Dawgs and Hogs meet under strange circumstances. This is the first game to be played in Little Rock since that announcement was made. Keep in mind, too, that this is a major source of debate in the Arkansas football world as the Hogs play Texas A&M annually in Dallas now (that started just before the Aggies joined the SEC), which means they are committed to play in Texas, but not in Little Rock in the future. That’s not playing great in Little Rock right now.