On Wednesday night, the SEC Network subtly admitted what Arkansas football fans have been saying for close to a decade now: The Arkansas-LSU game is a much bigger deal than Arkansas-Missouri.
That was apparent when it was one of a handful of “notable” games revealed at the very beginning of the network’s special schedule show, along with the likes of Alabama-Auburn, Mississippi State-Ole Miss, Texas-Texas A&M and Florida-Georgia.
This isn’t news to anyone who cheers for the Razorbacks, as most have been up in arms about Missouri replacing LSU as their annual year-end opponent since it was first announced prior to the 2013 season.
Beginning in 2014, the SEC forced the Arkansas-Missouri and LSU-Texas A&M rivalries on each of the fan bases and penciled them in for the week of Thanksgiving. The Battle for the Golden Boot was moved earlier in the season, with the date floating from season to season.
Predicting Arkansas’ Thanksgiving Week Game in 2024
Naturally, when it was announced Wednesday night that the Texas-Texas A&M game would return upon the Longhorns’ arrival in 2024, fans began speculating about the Arkansas-LSU matchup shifting back to Black Friday.
After all, the Aggies and Longhorns traditionally play each other on Thanksgiving. That would leave the Tigers in search of a new opponent for that week.
Most of LSU’s conference opponents in 2024 already have a Thanksgiving weekend game set in stone: Alabama plays Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Ole Miss plays Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, Vanderbilt plays Tennessee, Florida plays Florida State, South Carolina plays Clemson and (presumably) Texas A&M plays Texas.
That leaves only Arkansas and Oklahoma…to Arkansas fans who refuse to accept the Battle Line Rivalry (presented by Shelter Insurance) as a true rivalry.
Despite what the SEC Network and pretty much everyone else thinks, the SEC appears to be set on making Arkansas-Missouri a thing. So in reality, that leaves just Oklahoma — and the conference is probably drooling over two premier brands squaring off the week of Thanksgiving. That’s what had compelled LSU and Texas A&M to take that slot, after all.
The most likely scenario for the 2024 season is the Battle Line Rivalry (presented by Shelter Insurance) remaining that week, with LSU taking on Oklahoma to close out the regular season.
Could Things Change in 2025 and Beyond?
Another problem with moving the Arkansas-LSU game back to the week of Thanksgiving is that it will not be an annual matchup.
If the league sticks with an eight-game schedule, Arkansas’ lone permanent opponent will be Missouri. In a nine-game format, it’ll add Texas and Ole Miss on an annual basis.
Perhaps those assignments change between now and when the SEC finally settles on a format for 2025 and beyond, but as of this moment, it looks like Arkansas and LSU will play just twice every four years.
Then again, the same can be said of Oklahoma — it’ll be a rotating opponent for the Tigers.
LSU’s three permanent opponents in a nine-game format are expected to be Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M — all of whom would be locked in to other Thanksgiving opponents. As mentioned above, Alabama has the Iron Bowl against Auburn, Ole Miss has the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State and Texas A&M has the Lone Star Showdown against Texas.
The Tennessee-Vanderbilt game, as well as non-conference matchups like Kentucky-Louisville, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson and Florida-Florida State are also locked into that weekend.
Throw in the Arkansas-Missouri game and LSU and Oklahoma are the only SEC teams without a permanent opponent for the final week of the regular season, unless they can find one outside the conference (such as Oklahoma State for the Sooners).
That makes LSU and Oklahoma an obvious pair for Thanksgiving week, but what about the other two years in a four-year period when they aren’t scheduled to play? The SEC might be forced to move Arkansas-LSU and Missouri-Oklahoma into that slot.
It gets even more complicated in an eight-game format.
Arkansas-Missouri and LSU-Texas A&M could remain on Thanksgiving week, but what happens to Texas? Its permanent foe is Oklahoma and their game is locked into the week of the Texas State Fair in October.
Any way you slice it, there’s going to need to be a rotation among teams squaring off the week of Thanksgiving. Could that rotation include the Razorbacks and involve them playing LSU? Perhaps, but everything is still up in the air at this point.
The Future of Black Friday Games for Arkansas Football
Regardless of opponent, Arkansas football fans have grown accustomed to playing on Black Friday.
This year will mark the 25th time since 1996 that the Razorbacks have played either LSU or Missouri on the day after Thanksgiving. However, that is because CBS has owned that time slot and chosen to move it there.
Beginning in 2024, ABC/ESPN will own all of the SEC’s television rights. Arkansas continuing its tradition of playing on Black Friday will be entirely up to ABC/ESPN and it’s unknown whether or not it will have the same desire to fill that time slot with the Razorbacks.
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