It’s been five straight years since Missouri won the Battle Line Rivalry against Arkansas.
While the Razorbacks have many long-time opponents, geography and numerous school connections have intensified the annual Southeastern Conference game against the Tigers.
“I like that Missouri is close to us,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said in July at SEC Media Days. “(Missouri head coach) Eli (Drinkwitz) and I are good friends, but at the same time, we’re also very competitive.
“I’m glad we consider Arkansas and Missouri our No. 1 rival.”
But how does that translate to the Razorbacks fan base?
That and more was discussed with USA Today Network Arkansas athletics reporter Christina Long on this week’s edition of the Mizzou Sports podcast.
Continued:What channel broadcasts the Missouri-Arkansas football game on Friday? How to Watch Mizzou on TV
Long also explained why Fayetteville is the perfect place for the two teams to face off, instead of Little Rock, and how Fayetteville High School graduates Barrett Banister and Akial Byers ended up in Missouri instead of college. from their hometown.
The following conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity:
Eric Blum from Tribune: How is it going in Fayetteville?
Christina Long: “The Mizzou-Arkansas game is always kind of a fun crossover episode, especially with guys I went to high school with on both teams. I graduated from Fayetteville High School. I lived here for most of my life, and then I graduated from Mizzou, actually just in May, with a degree in magazine writing.”
EB: What has Sam Pittman brought to Arkansas in terms of raising the standard of the program?
CL: “I think the biggest thing about Sam Pittman is when Ed Orgeron started at LSU everybody was talking about his perfect fit. The LSU guy, he’s from here, such a great fit on culturally. He’s just LSU as a person. Sam Pittman isn’t from here and didn’t go to Arkansas, but he’s so good. He was an assistant here in the 2010s. He’s still pretty new. There are still a few of those fan glasses. This is the best year they’ve had since probably 2015 or before. The last time they beat Mizzou was in 2015. All the world feels really good about Pittman and the culture he’s building. He feels like a really good culture. . And quite an Arkansas guy.”
EB: There are a ton of cross-connections in this game. On the Arkansas side, do you think that helps or hurts the Razorbacks?
CL: “I think in years past it was former Missouri linebacker Eric Beisel, he was really trying to fan the flames of rivalry. That’s when Mizzou was a three-win team. But Mizzou beat Arkansas. And that’s how the rivalry was in the beginning. And then honestly, over the last few years, it’s really built just in terms of the people that have been involved. Barry Odom moves. Eli Drinkwitz having coached at Springdale High School, which is 20 minutes from Fayetteville And then of course, with Akial Byers and Barrett Bannister being from here – in addition to (former Missouri quarterback) Taylor Powell, now Troy’s quarterback – they were all great guys who were really good at Fayetteville High School. were my whole year. We were all classmates. And it was kind of a great thing when they didn’t didn’t get offers from Arkansas and when Barrett didn’t march in Arkansas e t all that. Then Arkansas also has a running back, Dominique Johnson, who I believe is from Texas, who was originally committed to Missouri, and there was some kind of tweet from his mom about Drinkwitz being misleading. It was quite a drama. And now Johnson is here in Arkansas. There’s all this crossover of personnel that really made the rivalry interesting without people like Eric Beisel having to make jokes in the media.”
EB: In your opinion, is Missouri really Arkansas’ No. 1 rival?
CL: “I don’t know. It was so strong with LSU for so long. But honestly, I think Texas A&M has really become something just because it’s a trophy game, played at AT&T Stadium, kind of wanting to own Texas and all that. I think it’s become very important. And so I don’t know, I wouldn’t say Missouri is their No. 1, I really wouldn’t. I think they really want to beat the Missouri. Pittman said Sunday he feels like it’s kind of a bigger rivalry for Arkansas. They have a little more skin in the game simply because it’s been so long since they’ve haven’t beaten Missouri and they’ve lost very close ones and lost over the years that they should have won so I wouldn’t say that’s their number 1 from a culture and fan perspective But I think when it comes to games they really want to win, they’re sick of Missouri being on their backs, that’s sure .”
EB: Missouri hasn’t played in Fayetteville since 2017, with Arkansas’ last game being in Little Rock. What’s the difference when this match is at Razorback Stadium?
CL: “That’s the age-old question of this fanbase. And I could go on and on about it forever. I believe Pittman said maybe in the offseason, or years past, that Little Rock hurts recruiting because it counts as a home But it’s an extra game on the road The stadium, they’ve done some renovations on it, but it’s quite old The thing about Razorback Stadium is that it’s huge It can to host almost 70,000 people. I don’t know what War Memorial holds, but it’s not close to that. And (fans have) filled (Razorback Stadium) all year. So especially in a year like this one, when they’re going to have 65,000 to 70,000 fans at their games here in Fayetteville, that’s a huge difference. It’s a lot louder, it’s just a better atmosphere. War Memorial, people show up because there’s a huge alumni base in Little Rock, it’s the capital, the medical school is there. not a small place, it’s just the stadium. …Little Rock doesn’t compare very well. So I think especially in a short week, having this game in Fayetteville is going to be really good for Arkansas and especially for their fans. … If you want a rivalry, you have to have the game in Fayetteville.”
EB: How do you see the end of the game?
CL: “It’s such a weird game because there’s been so many years where Arkansas should win this game and they don’t. And I think they should win this game. The gap seems to me too much. I don’t think it will go to overtime. I don’t think it will be necessary to hit a game-winning field goal. I think Arkansas might win by 10. I don’t think it will be a game to 14 points. I think there’s something about Missouri that happens in Arkansas every year. But I ultimately think that with Missouri being what they are, and Arkansas having the tools that they currently have “Missouri is booming now and Arkansas was until they lost to Alabama. I really think Arkansas is more motivated than they have been in the past few years. And I think Arkansas will get their eighth win, but I think 14 seems like too big of a difference.
Contact Eric Blum at [email protected]. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.
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