Missouri and Arkansas are rivals only in name right now.
The SEC decreed that the Tigers and Razorbacks will meet every season, making Missouri and Arkansas one another’s permanent cross-division conference game.
Of course, there isn’t much in the way of animosity to fuel the rivalry at the moment.
The Tigers haven’t played the Hogs in the regular season since 1963, a 7-6 win at Little Rock, Ark. Missouri and Arkansas did meet twice in bowls since: a 2003 Independence Bowl loss for the Tigers and a 2008 Cotton Bowl victory.
Now, the conference and the institutions are tasked with trying to manufacture a new rival.
“If the SEC calls you a rival, you’ve got to be a rival,” junior center Evan Boehm said. “It’s time to get it going now. We’re going to play them that Friday after Thanksgiving at 1:30 and wherever that goes, it goes.”
For the opening salvo of the new border battle, Arkansas’ first trip to Columbia since 1906 drew a prime TV slot. It will air the Friday after Thanksgiving on CBS.
“Hopefully, that is something CBS will want to continue going forward,” Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said.
Alden and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long have talked about ways to elevate the rivalry in all sports, not just football. But there isn’t a trophy being planned or anything yet.
“Those types of opportunities just take time,” Alden said. “There have to be experiences that take place, close games.”
Of course, it’s a good time for a new rival.
With Kansas still unwilling to schedule Missouri after it left the Big 12, the Border War is on a hiatus. Perhaps Arkansas can, in time, fill that void.
“I don’t think it’s going to live up to the hype right now of what Missouri/Kansas did, but in a few years it could be just as good, if not better,” Boehm said.
The Tigers are developing rivalries within the SEC East.
Missouri has split with traditional football powers Georgia and Florida since joining the conference, creating some competitive intrigue.
“We’ll see how it goes,” defensive lineman Markus Golden said. “My rivalry would kind of be South Carolina. I like competing against those guys. They’re a great game.”
Boehm mentioned Tennessee and Texas A&M, which moved with Missouri from the Big 12, as rivalry candidates.
“Initially, I thought maybe that might be our rival game,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said of Texas A&M. “Now, our rival game is Arkansas, which is going to be a great fit for us also.”
Hogs coach Bret Bielema agreed.
“No matter what the situation is, you wrap your arms around it, kiss it, hug it, make it great,” Bielema said. “… I think it can be built into something special.”