During Q&A at Houston Touchdown Club luncheon, Art Briles said "there’s a chance" Baylor could play Arkansas in Houston in 2019.— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) July 17, 2015
Back in May, Bret Bielema hinted at the possibility of participating in non-conference neutral site games in 2017 and 2019. There hasn't been much discussion about that since then as Bielema gave no indication of who Arkansas might play in those games, and the Hogs already have attractive non-conference home-and-home games set up through the end of the decade against TCU and Michigan.
This statement from Art Briles is the first time we've been given an idea that what Bielema stated in May is apparently somewhere in the discussion stages among both parties.
What's interesting about this for Razorback fans, aside from the obvious fun of playing (possibly still a high-ranking) Baylor, is that this could indicate a significant change in scheduling philosophy for Arkansas in what most expect to be the post-War Memorial Stadium era of Razorback football.
As mentioned, Arkansas is set up for premier non-conference games in each year through 2021 (except for 2020) with series against TCU and Michigan, and home games against Texas Tech this year and Texas in 2021. Traditionally, Arkansas has not sought out a second Power 5 opponent for non-conference games.
However, Arkansas' agreement with War Memorial only guarantees games in Little Rock through 2018 (and it could be sooner than that if Arkansas is ever able to buy its way out of the contract before then). The general assumption was that Arkansas would replace that game by playing all games in Fayetteville since the Hogs will continue to play Texas A&M in Arlington for the next several years, but this talk of playing Baylor in Houston brings up the possibility that Arkansas could instead replace the War Memorial game with a neutral site game in an NFL city in an NFL stadium in a part of the country Arkansas wants to more heavily recruit.
Obviously, many questions persist. Is this setup something Arkansas would be interested in doing annually or even frequently? Are the Hogs only interested in odd-numbered years as Bielema's mention of 2017 and '19 might suggest? Is Arkansas content with six campus games per year as a general rule? Or, simply, is this just a unique one-time opportunity?
It would certainly be new ground for Arkansas to play two Power 5 non-conference games in one year, but it's not without precedent in the SEC. Georgia and South Carolina both do so routinely. LSU has done it before. The flip side of the argument is of course that Arkansas is already listed annually as having one of the toughest schedules in the nation. While some of the programs scheduled each year could certainly falter by 2019, it's still worth wondering if a game like this is necessary as opposed to playing a traditional cupcake in Fayetteville.
Regardless, if this or something like this comes to fruition, it could signal a significant shift in the way Arkansas schedules games each year once the War Memorial deal expires. Or, it could mean Arkansas is considering getting out of one or both of their home-and-home series in coming years, but let's all hope and pray that's not the case because I've had that trip to Ann Arbor circled for a couple of years now and losing that would make me quite upset.