As should be common knowledge by now, the SEC has elected (by a 9-5 margin) to remain at an 8 game conference schedule in football when Oklahoma and Texas join the league in 2024. The University of Arkansas voted with the majority on this measure, and Commissioner Greg Sankey has stressed that this is only applicable to the 2024 football season and that the potential for the SEC to move 9 games remains viable for 2025 and beyond. Considering that all sources indicate that ESPN balked at increasing its TV payout for an additional conference game, it's hard to fault the Conference for making the decision that it did.
But how should Razorback Nation feel about this choice?
For starters, Arkansas should make maintaining its historical rivalries a priority, as much as possible. While it is basically impossible for the Hogs to play their four biggest rivals every year (Texas, A&M, LSU, and Ole Miss), it should fight to have at least one, if not two, guaranteed as annual opponents. This, of course, is much easier said than done as Arkansas has been one of the Conference's favorite punching bags ever since it joined in 1992. If the league sticks with an 8 game model permanently, Arkansas would be essentially guaranteed to have Missouri as its only annual opponent, which would be every Hog fan's worst nightmare.
If, however, a 9 game model were to be adopted with three annual opponents for 2025 onward, the Razorbacks would likely have a yearly reunion with the Texas Longhorns moving forward in addition to the date with Missouri. Leading candidates for the third spot would be A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma. Any of the first three would maintain a historic rivalry, while the last one, while far from ideal (particularly from a competitive standpoint), would at least give Hog fans a very easy road trip every other year and the potential to form a new, organic rivalry considering the pseudo Cold War that these two fan bases have been engaged in for decades. Of these options, my vote would go to LSU with Ole Miss being a very close second and the most likely one when the dust settles. One thing that should come as a major relief to all Razorback faithful is the prospect of no longer having Nick Saban's Crimson Tide on the schedule every year, but knowing our luck that probably will be compensated with more dates with Kirby Smart's Bulldogs.
What do you think? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below!