Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Razorbacks caught nice break with 2024 slate
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman is shown during a game against Liberty on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Fayetteville.
When the much anticipated announcement of the 2024 SEC football schedule was finally made, on the SEC Network of course, there had to be hooping and hollering in Arkansas.
For the first time in 31 years (counting the upcoming season), the Arkansas Razorbacks will not have to face Alabama, which has beaten the Hogs in 16 consecutive seasons.
Another way to put that would be since Nick Saban became the Tide’s head coach, although on a personal level the Razorbacks did beat he and LSU twice, leaving him with an 18-2 record against Arkansas.
Giving the Razorbacks a break from one of the greatest programs in the country seems fair, especially since the covid-19 season in 2020. Arkansas played its difficult Western Division plus Georgia and Florida to go along with Tennessee and Missouri.
The addition of the Bulldogs and the Gators gave the Razorbacks the No. 1 ranking as toughest schedule in the nation, or one that could have starred Tom Cruise for the Mission Impossible season.
However, the 2024 season is the entry ramp to the long-term scheduling in the SEC, which will change again when more expansion comes, and that will come.
Understand too, the transfer portal and NIL are not through changing the landscape of college athletics and when Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC, the bidding wars will go to a new level as everyone experiences first hand that the Longhorns are the second-richest school in America behind only Harvard, where academics matter most.
Almost immediately, some pundits declared Arkansas has the easiest schedule.
That belongs to Missouri, which does get Alabama but also plays Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, which faces a monumental challenge after its head coach Mike Leach died last December.
The exact dates will be announced later, but the Razorbacks have a very entertaining home schedule with LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas.
Keep in mind that LSU tied for first in the SEC West in Brian Kelly’s first season and he didn’t do it with someone else’s players, but through the transfer portal and recruiting. He’s an excellent coach who will be able to better athletes in LSU than he could at Notre Dame.
No one spends more time in the transfer portal than Ole Miss. Tennessee appears to have turned its program around and finished second in the SEC East last season and Texas is still reporting it is close to being rebuilt, something heard regularly for the past six years.
The Razorbacks’ road schedule is not brutal, but there is only one road game in the SEC that anyone takes lightly and that’s at Vanderbilt.
Arkansas travels to Auburn, which by then will once again be competitive, Mississippi State, Missouri — where the Hogs seem to have no luck — against Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas.
If Bobby Petrino can survive head coach Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies will be vastly improved this season.
A few things to note about the 2024 schedule is that Ole Miss doesn’t play Vanderbilt, something that had happened only twice since the SEC expanded in 1992.
In the Longhorns’ first season in the SEC, they have to travel to arch-rival Texas A&M. Maybe that’s a warning to Texas that it won’t control the SEC like it did the Big 12.
Missouri was reunited with two of its old Big 12 opponents, Oklahoma and Texas A&M, but not Texas.
With Georgia and Alabama playing in the regular season, it seems the committee had an eye on fairness of strength of schedule for every team, which is a positive.
This is supposed to be a one-year schedule, but the Razorbacks should lobby to make it permanent.
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