First off, this game isn’t a rivalry yet.

You can’t name a game, give it a trophy and expect it to be a rivalry right off the bat. That’s a column for another day.

The Razorbacks are fresh off a victory against an actual hated rival in the Ole Miss Rebels. Boy, haven’t those games been a blast to observe in the past decade or so?

There is some legit hatred here between the fanbases in basketball and baseball. But, the football series have been on par for instant classics. What else does Arkansas have to prove as they prepare for a trip to Columbia, Mo.

Keeping the trophy

Arkansas fought to become bowl eligible on Saturday with their victory against the Rebels. Now, the Hogs can focus on keeping the Battle Line trophy in Fayetteville for back-to-back seasons for the first time in series history.

This has been kind of a weird series between Arkansas and Missouri. A majority of time, these teams have been on opposite ends of the spectrum in the Southeastern Conference.

The initial matchup in 2014 resulted in a Missouri win, 21-14, and a trip to the SEC Championship game.

Arkansas would turn around in 2015 and dominate, 28-3, in the final game for Tigers coach Gary Pinkel.

At that point the Razorbacks fell apart in the series giving up a big lead in 2016 for Missouri’s second conference victory that season.

The streak continued to get uglier as the next four games were losses for the Razorbacks, too.

Bowl positioning

With a bowl-clinching victory in hand, it becomes all about improving a team’s position amongst conference rivals. If the Razorbacks finish with a 3-5 conference record, assuming that’s coming off a loss at Missouri, Arkansas could find themselves closer to home like Memphis for the Liberty Bowl.

If the Hogs win and finish the regular season with a 4-4 SEC record, they could play their way into a Florida bowl like last season’s Outback Bowl appearance. If Arkansas does defeat Missouri on Friday, it could be about which program between the Hogs and South Carolina draw more revenue for ticket sales. Which program will give a bowl game more eyes on television? It’ll be something that’s interesting to watch.

Also, Missouri will be fighting for their bowl lives with a 5-6 overall record. They need the victory to become bowl eligible for the third time under Eli Drinkwitz, too.

Close the season on high note

Similar to last season, Arkansas and coach Sam Pittman want to close 2022 on a high note. This likely isn’t the finish to the regular season that many around the SEC thought the Hogs would have. There were many of the opinion that Arkansas and Kentucky had outside shots of winning their respective divisions.

Fast forward to November and neither program has met its expectations. Injuries and depth have a lot to do with it for both teams. However, Arkansas wants to wrap up with two regular-season wins and a bowl appearance. It’s far from earlier lofty expectations but also far from the 4-18 Chad Morris era.

Linebacker Bumper Pool said it best in a talk with announcer Tom Hart’s crew this week.

”I’ve been through some stuff (at Arkansas),” said the senior from Lucas, Texas.

It also was mentioned that Arkansas’ all-time leading tackler wasn’t a fan of celebrating a win against Colorado State the way former coach Morris did with “Club Dub.”

“A year later after the previous regime left it was the dumbest thing ever,” Pool said. “You’re suppose to win those games.”

Closing out the regular season with a victory against a cross-divisional foe can help Pittman’s team to start to repay Missouri for misery they’ve caused in the past eight seasons.

Arkansas seemingly has emerged from the most dreadful decade in program history. The Razorbacks have ridden out injuries and depth issues dating back to the days of Morris and Brett Bielema.

With all that behind them Arkansas continues to climb out of the depths of the SEC cellar and into more respect across the nation. A victory against Missouri would solidify the comeback story.