Too early to tell just how tough Arkansas’ football schedule is

Arkansas players take the field before playing Missouri during an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

The one thing I can guarantee you in no uncertain terms about the 2024 Arkansas Razorbacks football season is the Hogs will not lose on Oct. 12 or Nov. 9.

It absolutely will not happen.

The caveat is that they won’t win either.

The Hogs will not play on those Saturdays next fall based on a calendar quirk and the SEC’s scheduling that the league announced Wednesday for the 2024 season when the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns join the league.

You can find the full schedule below. There aren’t too many surprises since the SEC announced each of the conference teams’ opponents for next fall last summer, but for planning purposes, it’s great to have the dates, too.

You might remember that the SEC is doing away with divisions next fall as the Sooners and Longhorns join. At first thought, I believed I’d miss divisional play if only for the fact it makes a cleaner choice for the two teams who will compete in the SEC Championship Game.

To my mind without divisions, there’s no real reason for a championship game, but that weekend in Atlanta isn’t going anywhere. It makes the conference too much money.

As you’ve probably figured out, copious amounts of money always trumps logic.

As for missing divisional play for football, I’ve not really missed it in SEC basketball, so I doubt I’ll miss it on the gridiron either.

Honestly, the only programs that made much of divisional titles in the past were the teams that lost in the SEC Championship Game.

Aug. 31 – Arkansas-Pine Bluff (in Little Rock)
Sept. 7 – at Oklahoma State
Sept. 14 – Alabama-Birmingham
Sept. 21 – at Auburn
Sept. 28 – Texas A&M (in Arlington)
Oct. 5 – Tennessee
Oct. 12 – Open
Oct. 19 – LSU
Oct. 26 – at Mississippi State
Nov. 2 – Ole Miss
Nov. 9 – Open
Nov. 16 – Texas
Nov. 23 – Louisiana Tech
Nov. 30 – at Missouri

I don’t see many Georgia fans running around celebrating the Bulldogs’ recent SEC East title after being ranked No. 1 all season, but losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship and thus being left out of the College Football Playoff likely was no fun.

We all know that Georgia probably is one of the best four teams in college football, but the Bulldogs failed to win at the decisive time. I don’t really have any problem with the Bulldogs being left out of the final four-team playoff. They had their chance to win their way in, but didn’t. Time and circumstance are always factors in any meaningful accomplishment.

I do feel a bit sorry for Florida State fans. With Jordan Travis at quarterback, FSU would have pushed either Texas or Alabama out of the playoff, but his injury did change their team.

I’d pick Alabama if the Crimson Tide were playing the Seminoles today. I’d never pick Texas over anyone. Old wounds die hard. I jest, but only a little bit. However, I think Texas would have a solid shot at beating the Seminoles without Travis.

But back to the Razorbacks and their 2024 schedule.

It’s hard for me to have too many thoughts about the schedule because I haven’t got a clue what type of team the Hogs are going to have.

With the transfer portal and NIL, there are too many goings and comings to be announced before we will have a clue of what type of team the Hogs will have next fall.

Really, we won’t nor will head coach Sam Pittman and his staff know who will actually be a Razorback next fall until the transfer-a-go-go completes its dance late this spring.

Players who are saying they are firmly committed to the Hogs now, could hit the portal exit in May unless their NIL deals lock them down.

When I have no clue about who will or won’t be a Razorback, it’s hard for me to have any real excitement or anticipation for the 2024 season at the moment.

It’s kind of a we’ll see attitude.

Arkansas coach Sam Pittman heads to the locker room after losing to Mississippi State in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

On the surface, I like the home-and-home series with Oklahoma State which opens on Sept. 7 at Stillwater, Okla. It’s a huge game for Pittman. A victory there would tame the “Fire Pittman” crowd for a while. A loss probably wouldn’t make the seat much hotter. While I hate to admit it, I don’t think most Hog fans would be surprised by a loss there.

Yeah, I skipped the Arkansas-Pine Bluff game at Little Rock to open the season on Aug. 31. UAPB shouldn’t be on the Razorbacks’ schedule. The Razorback Foundation should just make a considerable donation to UAPB’s program, and Arkansas should schedule a more competitive opponent. Hog fans deserve that for the price of the ticket, let alone their scholarship donations, and possible participation in Arkansas’ NIL collective.

A win over UAPB and Alabama Birmingham on Sept. 14 should make the Razorbacks 2-1 or better going into their SEC opener at Auburn on Sept. 21.

I begrudgingly admit Hugh Freeze is a good college football coach, but his smugness and arrogance are second only to Eliah Drinkwitz among SEC coaches. I give Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin a pass for being a funny guy.

A victory on the Plains would be ever so sweet. A loss will turn up the heat on Pittman.

On Sept. 28, the Razorbacks face Mike Elko’s new-look Texas A&M Aggies in AT&T Stadium for what most think will be he final Southwest Classic played in Jerry World. Both the Aggies and Hogs would like to move their game back to campus in the future. This is a game the Razorbacks need to win for more reasons than one.

Tennessee returns to Fayetteville for the first time since 2020 on Oct. 5. The Hogs have won the last three games in the series, and they need to make it four this season. That may or may not be realistic.

The Hogs have their first open date on Oct. 12 before hosting LSU at Razorback Stadium on Oct. 19. Arkansas challenged the Tigers this year in Baton Rouge. The Razorbacks need to win next fall at home if there is going to be anything special about next season.

A trip to Mississippi State on Oct. 26 is anyone’s guess next year. Former Oklahoma and Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has his shot at being the head man at Starkville. This should be a victory for the Hogs with Pittman in his fifth year versus Lebby in his first, but it’s a dangerous game. This could be a contest that solidifies Arkansas’ path toward a bowl trip, or perhaps the loss that signals change on the Hill if that decision hasn’t already been made by this point.

The Arkansas-Ole Miss series has been a good one for awhile with each team nabbing their share of victories. The matchup between Pittman and Kiffin’s programs has gone back and forth. No reason to expect much different this year on Nov. 2.

Arkansas players kneel as defensive lineman John Morgan III is worked on after he collapsed during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Nov. 16 is “T Day” when the Texas Longhorns return to Fayetteville as a conference opponent for the first time since 1989 and the days of the old Southwest Conference. Incidentally, the Longhorns won, 24-20, that day.

The last time Texas visited Fayetteville in 2021, the Razorback routed the Steers, 40-21, and made them like it in the first year of Steve Sarkisian’s tenure as coach. Unfortunately NIL has the Longhorns operating on a different level than the Razorbacks now and probably for the foreseeable future.

The Hogs play host to Louisiana Tech on Nov. 23 at Razorback Stadium for what one hopes will be at least the sixth win of the season.

No Hog fans with knowledge of the recent series history with Missouri wants to go into that game on Nov. 30 with the Razorbacks needing a victory for a sixth win.

The Hogs’ 2024 schedule isn’t any easier than this past season’s, which left the Razorbacks 4-8 overall and 1-7 in SEC play. In fact with that trip to Stillwater, it’s probably more difficult. However, it seems to be laid out more favorably. At least, that’s my story today.

It’s way too early for a prediction, but Pittman needs some early success next fall to keep the “Fire Pittman” crowd at bay for as long as possible.