SEC Network to announce 2024 football pairings Wednesday

“Eager” and “anxious” are words that are often incorrectly used interchangeably.

“Eager” denotes looking forward to something happening. “Anxious,” however, denotes uneasiness or nervousness about a situation.

Two very different meanings, but the terms aren’t mutually exclusive. A person can feel eager and be anxious at the same time.

In fact eager and anxious perfectly describes my feelings about the reveal tomorrow of the eight Southeastern Conference opponents the Arkansas Razorbacks will face during the 2024 season. That information along with every other SEC football team’s 2024 opponents will be officially announced to fans at 6 p.m. Wednesday on a special, one-hour episode of “SEC Now” on the SEC Network.

How special?

Well, special enough that the SEC Network is scheduled to re-run the announcement at 7, 8, and 9 p.m. I guess it’s better than airing Georgia’s throttling of TCU in the Bowl Championship title game for the umpteenth time?

From my understanding, it will just be the opponents. Dates and sites of the games will be revealed later. Even with the SEC standing pat with an eight-game league schedule in 2024, there might be some shuffling that has to be done with non-conference opponents to make the schedules work.

Certainly, ESPN/ABC will want a say on when and where the games will be played, and no doubt there will be a behind-the-scenes tug of war between SEC programs.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some information intended to be revealed on the TV program doesn’t leak out today or tomorrow.

KJ Jefferson (UA Athletics)

I’m guessing the SEC athletic directors among others will receive the information before the broadcast if they don’t already have it in hand now. It’s hard to sit on that type of information very long.

Getting back to eager and anxious, like all Hog fans, I’m looking forward to knowing who the Razorbacks will play in 2024, but still uneasy about what pairing they might get.

Maybe it’s just a Pavlovian response to the way Arkansas was treated by the league office when the SEC went to a 10-game, SEC-only schedule in 2020 because of necessary changes due to the corona virus.

No Razorback fan worth their Hawg Hat will ever forget being forced into that position. Having Georgia and Florida — traditionally the two best football programs in the SEC East — added to the Razorbacks’ already demanding SEC West plate was a swift kick to the groin for a struggling program that had a first-year head coach in Sam Pittman.

If you remember, Pittman opened his career as the Razorbacks’ head coach against his former boss Kirby Smart and his Georgia Bulldogs. To his credit, Pittman didn’t publicly complain. That’s not his nature.

I’m guessing the SEC office concluded the 2020 Razorbacks weren’t going to be a contender that season, so why not just pile it on the Hogs?

Now, that may not be the way it happened, but it sure felt like it to Razorback fans.

It reminded me of a famous quote made by Joe Kines, who was Arkansas’ defensive coordinator at the time but would be the interim head coach the following year when Arkansas joined the SEC. Kines said in his gravely voice, “They’ll slit your throat and drink your blood” in reference to the SEC.

So when Arkansas’ schedule is revealed Wednesday evening, I’m fully expecting Arkansas’ eight SEC opponents to be Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

I am teasing, of course.

We all know Missouri will be on the schedule rather than Tennessee, since the SEC has deemed from on high that the Tigers are somehow the Razorbacks’ natural rival.

I jest, but Razorback fans that look down their snout on Missouri are more than a bit myopic. Since Missouri joined the SEC in 2014, the Tigers have dominated the series with Arkansas, whipping the Hogs seven out of the nine times they’ve played.

To put it in perspective for old-timers like me, that’s similar to the way Texas used to handle the Razorbacks in the old Southwest Conference days.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

The Razorbacks have had some highs over the last two decades, but Arkansas has only had two periods of three-consecutive winning seasons in football (2009-11 and 2014-16) during that span. That came in the final three season’s of Bobby Petrino’s tenure and the middle three of Bret Bielema’s.

Pittman’s Razorbacks can match that this season with a winning record. I think they will do it if they can remain relatively healthy, particularly with K.J. Jefferson under center and Rocket Sanders leading an excellent stable of running backs.

I have some concern about the defense that’s been retooled through the transfer portal, but co-coordinators Travis Williams and Marcus Woodson have brought an air of positivity and aggressiveness with them to the program that could be exciting.

However, with Texas and Oklahoma added to the SEC cocktail, the league is only going to be more challenging whether it stays at an eight-game schedule or moves to nine sometime in the future. Recruits from those states now have another two other tradition-rich options if they want to play in the SEC.

I’m not necessarily trying to spread doom and gloom. The idea of playing Texas regularly stokes old fires, and the possibility of a rivalry with the Sooners could be fun, too. There aren’t many more treasured memories from my childhood than enjoying Arkansas’ beatdown of Oklahoma in the 1978 Orange Bowl.

But I’m not fooling myself, for the Razorbacks to truly compete year in and year out with the Longhorns, Sooners and the rest of the SEC, Arkansas’ program is going to have to operate at the highest level we’ve seen in quite some time.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2023 Football schedule

Countdown to Kickoff: 81 Days

Sept. 2 – Western Carolina at Little Rock (3 p.m. ESPN+/SEC+)
Sept. 9 – Kent State (3 p.m. SEC Network)
Sept. 16 – BYU (6:30 p.m. ESPN2)
Sept. 23 – at LSU (TBA)
Sept. 30 – Texas AM at Arlington, Texas (TBA)
Oct. 7 – at Ole Miss (TBA)
Oct. 14 – at Alabama (TBA)
Oct. 21 – Mississippi State (TBA)
Nov. 4 – at Florida (TBA)
Nov. 11 – Auburn (TBA)
Nov. 18 – Florida International (TBA)
Nov. 24 – Missouri – (3 p.m. CBS)