Fans in Fayetteville can second that sentiment, as the Razorback faithful are salivating over a scenario involving a rematch with Auburn. In their previous meeting in 2010, Arkansas saw their SEC Title hopes derail when then-Heisman hopeful Ryan Mallett was knocked out early in the second quarter with a concussion. Sophomore signal caller Tyler Wilson performed admirably in relief, but his efforts were to no avail as the Tigers trounced the Razorbacks 65-43 on their way to an undefeated season. Arkansas bounced back to finish the season 10-2 and earn a berth in the Sugar Bowl, but the question remains: how would have the Razorbacks faired if armed with a healthy Mallett? Thanks to our hypothetical tournament, the speculation can be put to rest.
Not that Auburn is a stranger to vengeance-seeking adversaries. Many pigskin pundits believed South Carolina posed as a formidable foe to Gene Chizik's squad in the SEC Championship, as the Gamecocks had the Tigers on the ropes in a September matchup at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Cam Newton saved the day in the fourth quarter with two touchdowns, but critics of Auburn believed Steve Spurrier could avenge his team's defeat on a neutral field. And to South Carolina's credit, the Gamecocks were down just seven with 16 seconds to go in the second quarter. But a 51-yard heave from Newton to Darvin Adams as time expired in the first half paved the way for 35-3 run for the Tigers, equating in a 56-17 spanking as Auburn claimed the conference crown.
To reach this juncture of the tournament, Arkansas squeaked past the Spartans 40-35 in Round One of December Madness thanks to four touchdowns from Mallett, while Auburn took care of business against the MAC Champion Miami RedHawks with a sound 47-10 victory.
Coordinator Gus Malzahn's offensive blitzkrieg lit up scoreboards to the tune of 42.7 points per game this season, but Newton and company were stuck in stall in the first half, scoring just 13 points against a relatively weak Arkansas defensive unit. The Razorbacks took advantage of the Tigers' troubles, with Mallett tossing two touchdowns and running back Knile Davis adding a 16-yard scamper as Arkansas went into halftime with a 28-13 advantage. The half was highlighted by a 54-yard punt return by Joe Adams at the end of the second quarter that sent the Razorback faithful into a frenzy.
Whatever coach Chizik preached at halftime was taken to heart by the Tigers. Thanks to runs by Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, Auburn outscored Arkansas 17-3 in the third to cut the deficit to one heading into the final quarter.
After holding the Razorbacks to a field goal to open the fourth, the Tigers embarked on a 71-yard drive that ended with seldom-used Mario Fannin finding the end zone to push Auburn out in front 37-34. Not to be outdone, Mallet responded less than a minute later with a 64-yard bomb to Cobi Hamilton as Arkansas regained the lead. But Cam Newton would get the last laugh, as the Heisman winner engineered a late game-winning drive that culminated with a 21-yard strike to Emory Blake to give Auburn a 44-41 victory.
Player of the game: Cam Newton (222 pass. yards, TD - 77 rush. yards, TD )
Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Auburn 58.5% - Arkansas 41.5%