Arkansas & Texas Tech: Understanding The Razorbacks' SEC Schedule Conundrum

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

With rumors leaking this week of a possible home-and-home with Texas Tech up the road, it's important to understand why Arkansas can't commit to the game yet. Hint: it may have something to do with avoiding a year with only 4 games in Fayetteville.

If you haven't heard by now, over the weekend there were rumors that Arkansas and Texas Tech were considering a home-and-home series in 2014 and 2015, but nothing was finalized because the SEC still hasn't made it's schedule beyond 2013.

Specifically, we're pretty sure what they're waiting on is to find out if the SEC is going to move to a 9 game schedule in 2014, which may or may not (probably not) be announced at Thursday's SEC Network press conference. (9 games = 7 more SEC vs SEC games to televise = $$$$$$)

Jeff Long also has to factor in the A&M game annually being played in the JerryDome beginning in 2014 (BOOOO), as well as two games in Little Rock through 2016.

So if the SEC moves to a 9-game schedule, through 2016 Arkansas will play two games in War Memorial, with one contractually obligated to be an SEC game, one game in Arlington, and four true SEC road games every other year (three + A&M other years).

As a result, if Arkansas scheduled a non-conference road game before 2016 in a year it had 5 SEC road games, that would leave only 4 games in Fayetteville that season.

The other eight games would be 4 road games, 2 LR games, A&M, and Texas Tech. Having a fall with only four games in the modern Razorback Stadium is basically unfathomable. It would be bad for fans, recruiting (fewer visit opportunities), the team (that's a lot of travel), and the local economy. Horror and terror and awfulness, basically.

Arkansas has generally played either 5 or 6 games in Fayetteville since cutting Little Rock back to 2 games each season about 10 years ago. Most power conference schools play 7-8 home games each year, occasionally dipping to 6.

So Arkansas likely won't finalize a deal with Texas Tech at least until it knows which seasons Arkansas gets the extra SEC home game, so it can schedule the road game with Tech and still have five games in Fayetteville. And until the SEC decides on their schedule, Arkansas won't know which years it gets 5 home games and which it gets 4.

According to WholeHogSports, Tech's Rivals site suggested the first game would be held in Lubbock, but I'd be willing to bet Arkansas wouldn't commit to playing in a certain order until it knew what the SEC schedule would be.

The Michigan series in 2018 and 2019 doesn't pose as big of a challenge because the War Memorial contract will be up before then, and I'd be completely shocked if Jeff Long continued playing two games in Little Rock each year.

Personally, I really hope this game happens. Playing old SWC teams is always fun. And I spent a summer in the Texas Panhandle during college and would enjoy an excuse to go back. I'll lead a Friday tailgate in Palo Duro Canyon.

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Another issue to keep an eye on is the 2015 Arkansas schedule. If the SEC remains at 8 games, Arkansas is contractually obligated to play an SEC game at War Memorial and would be the home team against Texas A&M in Arlington, leaving Fayetteville with just two SEC games that year.

Certainly, Arkansas would likely prefer to host a quality non-conference opponent like Texas Tech in 2015 to try to add an additional good game to that season's schedule to offset only two SEC games.

Of course, the 9-game schedule could immediately fix that issue. It would almost be like Jeff Long knew something in advance...

I'd also suggest that is just more evidence Long has no intention of keeping an SEC game in Little Rock any longer than he has to. Hard to believe he'd promise a conference game at a neutral site for years to come as long as another SEC game is going to be in Little Rock.

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Also, if you're worried about Arkansas' strength of schedule regarding the upcoming College Football Playoff, stop. It's a four team playoff. You still have to plan on going 11-1 to get in almost every year. And until given reason otherwise, SEC teams will win tiebreakers over non-SEC teams, especially if the conference goes to 9 games.

Now, if and when we expand to an 8 or 16 team playoff, strength of schedule will be far more important, and schools will be less afraid to lose a game early in the year.

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Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Expats and is a contributor to CollegeFootballNews.com and SportingLifeArkansas.com. You can email him at heydocharper@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @doc_harper.

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