The Battle Line Rivalry: Not Quite Yet
With the ever-shifting collegiate sports landscape, conference realignment is causing some new and unprecedented annual games in the Power 5 conferences.
Within the Southeastern Conference, a new rivalry is growing: Arkansas & Missouri. The rivalry does seem a bit forced, however, with the schools only meeting seven times in the history of both programs. The first meeting occurred in 1906, with the teams not meeting again until 1944. Another reason the rivalry seems forced is the corporate sponsorship associated with the “Battle Line Rivalry”. Shelter Insurance is the sponsor of the new rivalry, with their logo emblazoned on the trophy, it hardly has the feel of the Arkansas-LSU rivalry for “The Boot”, which is not associated with any corporate sponsors.
“We recruit against Missouri quite a bit, to be quite honest. Of all the schools in the East — obviously in Florida we’re against Florida a bit — I would say everything in Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City and Louisiana even, even here in Arkansas, we go against Missouri quite a bit. We both look for the same type players. Kids that do things right. Kids that are project-type kids that are developmental players that do well in our programs. I always consider it a badge of honor when we go into a recruiting battle with them and we’re able to have some success.”-Bret Bielema, Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks
Another storyline that made the 2014 matchup so intruiging was Missouri’s standings in the SEC East division, where a win against Arkansas would secure a trip to Atlanta in the SEC title game. From the Arkansas side, star running back Jonathan Williams had committed to Missouri in high school, yet decommitted and eventually joined Arkansas’ recruiting class for the 2012 season.
This is a storyline that most fans had forgotten about, only to be brought back up leading up to the game last season. Missouri won the game in 2014, due to a second half surge and a fumble by both Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Another issue brought up was that the Missouri players refused to shake hands before the coin toss, leading to a contentious start to the new rivalry.
Another event that led to bitter feelings between the schools was the recruitment of high school wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was recruited by both universities and chose to attend the University of Missouri.
In the 2015 version, Arkansas looked to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Mississippi State, while Missouri looked to earn a win for Coach Gary Pinkel and to earn bowl-eligibility status. Arkansas eliminated that chance with a 28–3 win over Missouri, however, which may lead to a feeling of revenge for Missouri next year. As the years continue to pass and recruting battles become more prominent between the two schools, a feeling of a rivalry may emerge; the two schools just have not felt it yet. With Arkansas’ Battle for the Boot moved from its traditional Thanksgiving weekend date and the Missouri’s Border War with the University of Kansas on hiatus, this rivalry will have to do, for now. #RESM560V