Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas 2021 schedule observations
A view of AT&T Stadum Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, before the Southwest Classic between Arkansas vs Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas.
Here are eight observations about Arkansas' 2021 football schedule that was released Wednesday:
Return to Arlington
For a brief time last year it appeared the Arkansas-Texas A&M series would return to Fayetteville in 2021, but that won’t be the case.
The game between the Razorbacks and Aggies will move back to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, next year — the 10th scheduled meeting since 2009 between the teams in the Dallas suburb.
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Texas A&M hosted Arkansas in 2020 because of changes related to covid-19. That led Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek to say he expected the 2021 game to be played in Fayetteville before backtracking a couple of months later.
The Aggies have won the last six meetings between the teams in Arlington and nine straight since joining the SEC in 2012. Arkansas beat Texas A&M three straight years from 2009-11 when the series was played in Arlington as a nonconference game.
Both Yurachek and Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork have publicly stated they believe the series should be moved to campus, but the teams are under contract to play in Arlington through 2024.
The schedule falls into a pattern of threes in 2021. That's only broken by an open date on Oct. 30.
The Razorbacks will play three straight game in Fayetteville to start the season. Then, they are on the road for three straight, although the Sept. 25 game against Texas A&M in Arlington is technically a home game.
They are back at home for three straight starting on Oct. 16. They play away from Fayetteville three times to end the season, including the finale in Little Rock on Nov. 27.
Return to Little Rock
Arkansas and Missouri are scheduled to play the second of their three contracted games at War Memorial Stadium on Nov. 27, but the game might be moved to Nov. 26 to accommodate a Black Friday TV audience.
The Razorbacks and Tigers played in Little Rock two years ago when Missouri won 24-14. They are scheduled to play there again to close the 2023 season.
Arkansas amended its contract with War Memorial Stadium in 2018 to include the three games against Missouri, as well as three spring football games. Citing a rule prohibiting spring games being played off campus, the SEC denied the Razorbacks’ last petition to play a spring game in Little Rock.
The stadium completed $2.1 million in renovations between the Razorbacks' games there in 2018 and 2019, and last year the stadium was in the early stages of designing a 3,221-square foot home locker room that would cost between $700,000 and $950,000, and was scheduled to be completed by Arkansas' game there against Missouri this year.
Those renovations were outlined in the 2018 contract, as was a benchmark for the stadium to sell at least 47,000 tickets to each game the Razorbacks play there and earn ticket revenue of at least $2.1 million each game. The Arkansas-Missouri game played in Little Rock in November sold an announced 33,961 tickets.
2 on-campus SEC games
As was the case in 2019, Arkansas’ contracted games in Arlington and Little Rock leave the Razorbacks with only two SEC games in Fayetteville — against Auburn on Oct. 16 and against Mississippi State on Nov. 6.
That is because Arkansas is the designated home team for games against Texas A&M and Missouri during odd-numbered years. SEC teams are allowed four home conference games each season.
Unlike 2019, Arkansas will play a Power 5 nonconference game at home when Texas comes to town on Sept. 11, which will improve the overall quality of the home schedule. Two years ago the Razorbacks did not have a marquee nonconference game after Michigan backed out of a contracted series.
This is expected to be the second of three times Arkansas will have two SEC games in Fayetteville. It is also expected to occur in 2023 with SEC games against Auburn and Mississippi State, and a marquee nonconference game against BYU.
The Razorbacks’ contracts with AT&T Stadium and War Memorial Stadium expire following the 2024 season and it is expected that at least one will not be renewed.
SEC East rotation
Arkansas will play Georgia from the SEC East for the second consecutive season.
Not since the SEC changed its cross-divisional scheduling rotation in 2003 have the Razorbacks played two years in a row against an SEC East that was not its permanent crossover opponent. Missouri replaced South Carolina as Arkansas' crossover opponent in 2014.
Of course this year’s instance is a quirk that was brought about by the league’s 10-game, conference-only schedule that was set in response to the covid-19 outbreak.
Arkansas has been scheduled to play at Georgia in 2021 since the SEC set a long-term cross-divisional scheduling plan seven years ago. The cross-divisional schedule is set through 2025.
After this year the Razorbacks are scheduled to host South Carolina in 2022 and Kentucky in 2024, and play at Florida in 2023 and Vanderbilt in 2025.
Arkansas has not played at Georgia since Sept. 18, 2010, when Greg Childs caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett with 15 seconds remaining to give the Razorbacks a 31-24 victory. The 11-year gap between trips to Georgia is currently the longest for Arkansas against any SEC team.
Three of the Razorbacks’ first four games will be against teams it used to play every year in the Southwest Conference — Rice, Texas and Texas A&M.
After Arkansas plays Rice in the season opener it will have played every old SWC opponent except Baylor and Houston since moving to the SEC. The Razorbacks are 12-17 against their former SWC foes since 1992:
• 3-9 vs. Texas A&M
• 3-2 vs. Texas
• 4-4 vs. SMU
• 1-1 vs. Texas Tech
• 1-1 vs. TCU
The Razorbacks were scheduled to play TCU in the Texas Bowl to end the 2020 season, but the Horned Frogs were unable to play the game due to low roster numbers and the bowl game was canceled.
While Arkansas has played several games against old SWC members in the past 29 years, it has only played five of those games in Fayetteville, and never two in one year like it will this season against Rice and Texas.
When Arkansas hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Oct. 23 it will be the first time in 77 years that an in-state team has played a football game against the Razorbacks.
The Arkansas-UAPB series — the teams are scheduled to play again Aug. 31, 2024 — was set shortly after the Razorbacks were allowed to begin scheduling games against teams from the UA System. Prior to 2019 a scheduling ban was in place at Arkansas against any team from the state in all sports.
The last in-state team to play Arkansas was Arkansas-Monticello (then Arkansas A&M) on Dec. 2, 1944. The Razorbacks won the game 41-0 in Fayetteville.
Arkansas will not play on Oct. 30 — one of 10 SEC teams to take that week off following eight straight weeks of games.
The Razorbacks have had two bye weeks the past two seasons, but college football returns to one bye week this year due to a fewer number of weekends between the beginning and the end of the regular season.
2021 Arkansas Football Schedule
Sept. 4: Rice
Sept. 11: Texas
Sept. 18: Georgia Southern
Sept. 25: Texas A&M (in Arlington, Texas)
Oct. 2: at Georgia
Oct. 9: at Ole Miss
Oct. 16: Auburn
Oct. 23: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Nov. 6: Mississippi State
Nov. 13: at LSU
Nov. 20: at Alabama
Nov. 27: Missouri (in Little Rock)
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