By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Defensive end Jake Bequette is part of a long lineage of Arkansas football greats. His grandfather, father and uncle all played for the Razorbacks.
But in the jubilant moments after Arkansas’ 31-23 win against LSU on Saturday night, a victory that moved the Razorbacks on the verge of a Sugar Bowl berth, the junior revealed something that was rather shocking.
Bequette’s younger brother, Sam, goes to Auburn.
"We disowned him after he went there," he said.
Bequette was joking, of course. In fact, his brother’s residence on the Plains might just come in handy this week.
As hard as it may be to admit, Arkansas (10-2, 6-2 in SEC) has become full-fledged Auburn fans after the 31-23 win against LSU in War Memorial Stadium. That’s because the No. 2 Tigers (11-0, 8-0 in SEC) hold the key to the Razorbacks’ invitation to a BCS bowl berth. If Auburn beats No. 18 South Carolina (9-3, 5-3) and advances to the BCS national championship game, the Razorbacks will be heading to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.
So Bequette said he will swallow his pride for a week.
"I’m going to have to learn all the chants and stuff and just put on my Auburn blue and orange as terrible as that sounds," said Bequette, who was asked if Sam would be willing to supply his older brother with some Auburn gear. "He’s got some. I’ll have to borrow it from him."
It’s not the first time Arkansas has been rooting for the Tigers. Last week, the Razorbacks needed an Auburn win against Alabama to help keep their BCS hopes alive.
It didn’t look good when Auburn fell behind 24-0. But the Tigers rallied to win and, after Boise State lost later Friday night, Arkansas knew it had an opportunity to enter the BCS bowl equation by beating LSU.
"We watched the game (Friday), there was no question," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "It was really hard to root for Auburn. I can tell you that."
The Tigers handed Arkansas one of its two losses this season, beating the Razorbacks 65-43 on Oct. 16. The game featured critical calls in each half that went Auburn’s way, something Arkansas voiced its displeasure with to the SEC.
It proved to be a turning point in Arkansas’ season, though. The Razorbacks fell to 4-2 after the loss and its hopes of winning the SEC West were all but eliminated. But Arkansas rallied around its veterans and pledged to win its final six games, a quest it completed in Little Rock.
"We’ve got a special group here," Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton said. "We’ve worked hard at practice. We’ve been grinding ever since camp. We knew this is what we wanted to do and we’ve almost reached our goal."
An Auburn loss would crush those dreams. South Carolina would earn the automatic BCS berth for winning the SEC, while Auburn would likely be an at-large selection.
It appears that scenario would send Arkansas to either the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., or the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Capital One Bowl has the first selection among SEC bowl tie-ins after the BCS bowls are finalized. The Cotton Bowl shares the next pick with the Outback Bowl.
"We don’t have any control over that unfortunately," Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett said. "But it’s fun. It’s fun to be talked about getting into a BCS bowl."
If everything falls into place, it appears the Razorbacks are on a collision course with No. 6 Ohio State (11-1) and quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes are part of a three-way tie for the Big Ten title, but Wisconsin is expected to be named the conference champion for bowl purposes because it is the highest ranked BCS team.
It would be Arkansas’ first Sugar Bowl appearance since the 1979 season, when Alabama beat the Razorbacks 24-9 in the Jan. 1 game. The Razorbacks have played in the Sugar Bowl five times. Their only win came in the 1968 season, when Arkansas beat Georgia 16-2 under coach Frank Broyles.
Petrino and the Razorbacks would like an opportunity to pick up the program’s second Sugar Bowl win — in its first BCS bowl game — on Jan. 4. But it all depends on Auburn’s performance in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.
"They need to win," Petrino said. "That would be nice."