It appears Arkansas will be getting a new cross division football rival. In related news, the sky is blue and water is wet.
This news should not be shocking in the least. The SEC needs to find Missouri an SEC rival, the same thing they have been trying to find for Arkansas since 1992 when the Hogs joined the SEC.
It’s only natural that the two schools in neighboring states begin to play yearly. I would think the powers that be are hoping this game will fill a void for Missouri fans left when the famed Border War between them and Kansas ended with Missouri exiting the Big 12 for greener pastures in the SEC. We may have had a couple of glimpses into what the rival could be when Arkansas and Mizzou played twice on the hardwood this season. A lot of black and gold could be seen in Bud Walton when the tigers made their way onto the floor. Although that might be somewhat of a skewed gauge to use, giving Mike Andersons departure from Missouri for Arkansas.
The two schools have only ever met on the football field 5 times in history, with Missouri leading the series 3-2. The most notable game is likely the 2008 Cotton Bowl where Missouri blew out a hapless and coach-less Hogs team that featured a back field of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
This also means that Arkansas can say goodbye to its current cross division opponent South Carolina. An opponent Arkansas currently holds an all-time series lead against of 13-8. Arkansas and USC-East never really developed into any sort of dramatic rivalry, not like the SEC might have hoped anyway. A few dramatic games yes, a rivalry no. Maybe it’s the over 900 miles that separate the two schools, maybe it’s the lack of past history between them. Either way after October 12th, the Hogs and Cocks will only be seeing each other once every 7 years. South Carolina will move to play Texas A&M as its new cross division opponent.
The bigger question about this change hasn’t been if Arkansas and Missouri would play, but rather when.
It’s no real secret that the now traditional Friday after Thanksgiving game between Arkansas and LSU is in jeopardy to be moved. It’s likely that this move is just the first step in that direction. Texas A&M has openly expressed the desire to play their old rival in LSU that weekend to fill the void on their schedule after they lost their longtime rival game with Texas, when they made the jump to the SEC. Making a likely scenario of LSU vs Texas A&M taking place on Thanksgiving night and Arkansas vs Missouri taking place on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Of course to date nothing is set in stone, and Arkansas AD Jeff Long was quoted as saying this week at the SEC meetings in Destin that nothing was decided yet.
If you follow my twitter feed, you likely already know my personal feelings on this likely move. I think it would be a blow to Arkansas to lose the showcase CBS game on the day after Thanksgiving with national significance. The game has at times featured two top 25 teams and in some cases decided who was headed to the Sugar bowl or even the SEC championship. The game is traditionally been a hard fought battle as well, seeing more than one over time. Of course none of that will change if the game is played earlier in the season, however it will lose the exposure of playing opposite of no other games, on a weekend that was created for football watching (at least in my family it is). Having that many eyeballs watch the program was great exposure. Will a day after Thanksgiving game versus Mizzou bring the same attention? Only time will tell.