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Hogs lose another top-notch opponent

by Matt Jones | August 1, 2020 at 2:12 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- For the third consecutive season, Arkansas has lost a chance to play a football game against one of college football's most storied programs.

The Razorbacks had a home-and-home series against Michigan canceled for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and now the future of Arkansas' home-and-home arrangement with Notre Dame is in doubt after a game scheduled for September between the teams was called off Thursday.

The SEC's decision to play a 10-game, conference-only schedule this season because of the coronavirus pandemic means the Razorbacks also lost scheduled nonconference games against Notre Dame, Nevada, Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern.

Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said Thursday he has spoken with most of the athletic directors of the schools whose games against the Razorbacks were canceled, "and we will work to figure out a solution for each of those, whether that's rescheduling the game in the future."

The Razorbacks were only scheduled to play once against Nevada, Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern, and those games could likely be easily fit into future schedules that have not been completed.

Rescheduling the series against Notre Dame -- which includes a game in Fayetteville in 2025 -- might prove to be more complicated because of differences in the way the Razorbacks and Fighting Irish schedule their games. Notre Dame plays independent of a football conference (it will play as a member of the ACC this season given the unique circumstances), while Arkansas is bound to play eight SEC games per season.

The remainder of the Razorbacks' desired annual football schedule includes one marquee game against either an independent or a team from another Power 5 conference as required by the SEC, two games against teams from a Group of Five conference and one game against a team from the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision.

Arkansas' marquee nonconference schedule is set through 2028, when the Razorbacks are scheduled to play the back end of a home-and-home agreement with Utah. Arkansas also has games scheduled against Texas, BYU and Oklahoma State during that time.

Of rescheduling the Razorbacks' first game at the Notre Dame Stadium, Yurachek said, "It would be my hope because I understand that Razorback fans were looking forward to going to South Bend, Ind."

"This is just an unprecedented and extraordinary year, and you recognize that going in," Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told ESPN on Thursday.

By playing a conference-only schedule this season, it will mark the third year in a row Arkansas has not played a team from another power conference. The Razorbacks last played another Power 5 team in 2017, when they lost 28-7 to TCU of the Big 12.

Because of the late nature of Michigan canceling its series against Arkansas in the summer of 2017, the Razorbacks were allowed by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey to classify two games against Colorado State as meeting the league's Power 5 scheduling requirements.

The Razorbacks lost 34-27 at Colorado State in 2018 and defeated the Rams 55-34 last year in Fayetteville.

Michigan paid $2 million to break the contracted series with Arkansas. Ironically, Michigan canceled that set of games to renew a series against Notre Dame in 2018 and 2019.

With 962 victories, Michigan is the NCAA's winningest football program. Notre Dame's 908 victories puts the Irish in a tie for sixth overall with Oklahoma, counting 21 victories the NCAA vacated two years ago as the result of an academic misconduct finding.

Arkansas is scheduled to host Texas next season. The Longhorns' 916 victories are tied with Alabama for third-most in college football history.


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