The NCAA voted Wednesday to make significant changes to Division I football.
One of the changes was the elimination of division requirements for conference title games. In the days of the BCS, conferences with league championship games generally stood a better chance of making the national title game. But since the introduction of the playoff, the advantage has gone away. The ACC is largely expected to drop its Coastal and Atlantic divisions soon.
Still, some conferences make keep the divisional format. The Big 12, for example, is considering going back to its old divisional style. The SEC and Big Ten on the other hand are debating.
For Arkansas, the Razorbacks play all of their SEC West opponents, six of them, every year and also its cross-divisional rival, Missouri. The other SEC East opponent rotates. If the league were to eliminate divisions, however, it’s possible many teams would become rotations. The 3-5-5 format, for example, wherein each team has three permanent opponents and five rotational ones, has been discussed in the ACC. If picked up, it could become popular elsewhere.
With that in mind, let’s examine the three Arkansas schools might want to keep as permanent opponents if the SEC were to adopt such a formula.
Texas / Oklahoma:
Dec 29, 2020; San Antonio, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns linebacker DeMarvion Overshown (0) and Texas Longhorns defensive back Jahdae Barron (23) celebrate a fumble recovery against Colorado Buffaloes during an NCAA college football game at the Valero Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome on Tuesday, December 29, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell-USA TODAY NETWORK:
Some fun right off the bat, huh? Oklahoma and Texas will join the SEC at some point in the next few seasons. They both have distinct histories with Arkansas, too.
Texas, obviously, is the classic rival. By playing the Longhorns every year, that could be rekindled. Oklahoma is the geographic rival. People from the border can tell you some real animosity exists.
But the thing is, making both permanent rivals seems like a bad idea. Both schools have been head-and-shoulders better than Arkansas over the course of the last 25 years. Certainly the Razorbacks could take victories at a fair rate, it’s just after playing in the gauntlet of the SEC for the last 30 years, do you really want to have both OU and UT every single season?
Nov 20, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Tyler Macon (10) warms up against the Florida Gators before during the game at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports:
Here’s the thing, it’s only not a rivalry because there’s no sexiness to either program. But the Battle Line Rivalry trophy exists and it’s hard to imagine either school wanting to scrap it.
The reality is that it should be a rivalry if only because proximity and recent history shows they’re similar. Awfully similar. This has to be one.
3. Texas A&M:
Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
The Southwest Classic will probably stay on the table. It’s a trophy game.
Even if Texas A&M has absolutely dominated, it’s hard to imagine this game going away on an every-year basis. And if it does not, that would mean A&M, Missouri and either Oklahoma or Texas. That, ladies and gentlemen, is some tough sledding.
LSU Tigers running back Tyrion Davis-Price. (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)
The Gen Xer’s dream.
Arkansas and LSU played some classics in the late 1990s and 2000s. The Razorbacks also have an 11-19 record against the Tigers since both schools have been in the SEC.
A bit like the Oklahoma / Texas logic above, I’m just not sure how wise it is to place more than one powerhouse on a permanency list. I’d keep them off.
5. Mississippi State:
Oct 3, 2020; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Hudson Clark (17) and defensive back Jon Conley (15) break up a pass intended for Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver JaVonta Payton (0) during the fourth quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports:
Remember the NCAA Football games for Playstation and XBox systems in the 2000s? One of the iterations had rivalry games on it. Each school had two, if memory serves. Arkansas’ rivals were LSU and Mississippi State.
No real hatred exists between the two, but the history of both over the last 25 years is like looking in a mirror. They deserve each other just about as much as Arkansas / Missouri.
If I’m an Arkansas fan, I’m begging for this one.
6. Ole Miss:
FAYETTEVILLE, AR – OCTOBER 17: Matt Corral # 2 of the Mississippi Rebels is sacked in the first half of a game by Julius Coates of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on October 17, 2020 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)
Ole Miss is a better program more often than Mississippi State. That’s about the only reason the Rebels are below their Magnolia State brethren.
Geography-wise, this makes the next most sense to Missouri and Oklahoma, anyway, and conferences will almost certainly keep at least one geographical rival per team if they were to adopt a 3-5-5 format.
Arkansas running back Trelon Smith (22) stiff arms Auburn defensive back Jamien Sherwood (20) at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., On Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Auburn defeated Arkansas 30-28.
The reality is at this point, all the best teams have been listed. And putting Arkansas with Alabama as a permanent rival is unduly cruel.
Auburn and Arkansas have had some dogfights over the years and from this author’s perspective, as a child, Auburn was the most hated team on the schedule.
7. The Rest:
Tennessee running back Eric Gray (3) is tackled by Arkansas defensive back Jalen Catalon (1) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo / Michael Woods)
In order of how fun they’d be: