It has a name now, the Battle Line Rivalry, but Missouri-Arkansas isn’t really a rivalry yet.
The Tigers and Razorbacks haven’t played in the regular season since 1963.
Missouri, which own a 3-2 lead in the all-time series, has never played in Fayetteville, Ark.
Meanwhile, Arkansas has played only once in Columbia, an 11-0 loss in 1906 — 20 years before Memorial Stadium was built.
The Tigers won the most recent meeting, hammering the Hogs in the Cotton Bowl to cap a 12-win 2007 campaign.
Of course, Arkansas spoiled Gary Pinkel’s first bowl appearance with Missouri, winning the 2003 Independence Bowl.
Put simply, there hasn’t been enough history between the Tigers and Razorbacks to breed the requisite animosity for a true rivalry.
Although, Missouri center Evan Boehm brings up a good point: “Arkansas, they have the word Kansas in it, so it’s got to be a rival,” he said.
It’s not exactly a shot across the bow as much as a dig at the Tigers’ former rival, Border War combatant Kansas, but apparently that’s how these things start.
“I compare it a little bit to the Kansas rivalry,” Pinkel said of the rivalry with Arkansas. “It didn’t happen overnight. It happened over time.”
Missouri and Arkansas don’t have the same vitriolic history as MU-KU, which dates back to bloody Civil War raids.
The two states don’t share a major metropolitan area where its fans are forced to mix, which also has been a hallmark of the Braggin’ Rights basketball series with Illinois.
No matter, there’s confidence from both sides that the rivalry will flourish now that MU and Arkansas will meet annually in the regular-season finale as permanent SEC cross-division opponents.
“If there’s not a rivalry yet, there will be soon,” said Razorbacks senior guard Brey Cook, a Springdale, Ark., native, during SEC Media Days. “It’s very exciting to start a new tradition. Growing up, for me, LSU was always the big bad guy at the end of the season. We always played them great and those games always seemed to be the best of the year. Now, it’s Mizzou, so I’m excited to go up to their place this year and start something new.”
Finding seeds for the Missouri-Arkansas feud is a stretch right now.
“For me there’s a little added rivalry, because my dad actually works in Arkansas,” MU sophomore linebacker Michael Scherer said.
Scherer’s father, Joe, works at Anchor Packaging, which is headquartered in St. Louis but manufactures microwavable Tupperware at its plant in Marmaduke, Ark.
“He works in St. Louis for half the week and then the factory is in Arkansas, so he’ll go there for half the week,” Scherer said. “He’s got to have something to brag about. They’re mostly Arkansas State fans down where he is, but there’s a few (Razorbacks fans). He’s still in Arkansas.”
At least the first Battle Line Rivalry has some intrigue.
Beating Arkansas would give Missouri an outright SEC East title and a berth in conference title game, while Arkansas would love to play spoiler and win a third consecutive SEC game after snapping a 17-game skid in conference play.
“It’ll be a clash for the ages this coming weekend, and as time progresses I think this will be a great competition,” MU senior left tackle Mitch Morse said.
It also has potential to impact recruiting.
“A lot of kids would either choose here or Arkansas I’ve noticed the last couple years, so that would be big for us,” MU senior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent said.
Missouri will re-open the dorms on Friday morning, allowing students to return early from Thanksgiving break for the Arkansas game.
Pinkel hopes the students flock to Memorial Stadium for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff Friday on CBS. He also hopes MU fans will embrace the Arkansas game and make it a post-holiday tradition each year.
“It won’t take long for our fans on both sides to figure this thing out,” Pinkel said. “It should be a great rivalry, very historic as time goes on.”
Missouri-Arkansas football history
Little Rock, Ark.
*Independence Bowl; **Cotton Bowl following 2007 season