Did the Battle Line “Rivalry” just become a real rivalry?
If you missed the news Tuesday evening, Clemson graduate transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant finally ended the speculation regarding his transfer destination and announced he would finish his collegiate career at Missouri over Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State. Bryant will be eligible to play immediately for the Tigers and now looks to be a lock to be the heir apparent to Drew Lock.
That decision came despite his relationship with Chad Morris, his perceived fit in the Razorbacks’ offensive system and the team’s desperate need for a quarterback heading into 2019. To add insult in injury, Bryant made the decision on Morris’ birthday, Dec. 4, which likely was just a coincidence but caps a historically bad year for the Razorback coach.
If that news wasn’t bad enough for the Razorbacks, former Arkansas receiver Jonathan Nance announced his intention to transfer to Missouri immediately after Bryant. Nance is also a graduate transfer and will be eligible immediately for the 2019 season.
Certainly, many Arkansas fans will say Nance quit on Arkansas last season, he shut it down and saved himself for a graduate transfer the same as Bryant did at Clemson, but nonetheless, the Razorbacks’ 2019 home game against Mizzou just got tougher following this turn of events.
In the context of forced/manufactured rivalries, the Battle Line Rivalry feels like it’s getting ramped up.
The origin of the bad blood between the two started with Eric Beisel’s comments heading into the 2016 edition of the game. Beisel would later apologize to then-Arkansas coach Bret Bielema for these comments, however, he indicated to SDS that his apology came at the behest of Barry Odom and not of his own volition.
Missouri was an underdog heading into the 2016 contest but ended up winning the game 28-24 after storming back from a 24-7 deficit. The Tigers have not lost in this series again, entering 2019 with a three-game winning streak in the series, with the latest win coming in a 38-point shutout.
While many fans aren’t willing to call this game a rivalry just yet, it’s beginning to feel like that’s exactly what this regular season ending game has become for both programs. Keep in mind, Arkansas is now set to host Mizzou in War Memorial Stadium every other season for the next few years, which could add some extra juice to the series.
Who knows, one of these days, Arkansas fans may finally agree that this annual game is actually a rivalry — it’s heading that way whether they like it or not.