Arkansas athletics/courtesy
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn has helped make Missouri State into Arkansas' biggest nonconference rival.

Who is Arkansas’ biggest nonconference rival? Not Texas

Eric Bolin
SEC Country reporter Eric W. Bolin will candidly answer your Arkansas Razorbacks sports queries each weekday in our Mailbag Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs or by email to Eric at ericwbolin@gmail.com.

Question of the Day: Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Who is Arkansas’ biggest nonconference rival?

Depends on the sport. Depends on the age of the person being asked, too. Mostly, it depends whether we are talking all time or right now.

No doubt about it tons of Arkansas fans hate Texas. Hating a team, though, does not a rivalry make. Does Texas really give a hoot about Arkansas? I’d wager probably not. In the hierarchy of Longhorns opponents, Arkansas checks in somewhere around eighth or ninth in the “we don’t like them” slotting. That isn’t a rivalry. That’s big brother annoyed with little brother. A fly buzzing in the ear.

To check off those first three rhetorical hurdles mentioned in the opening, let’s do this: Across sports. I’m 34. Right now. Those are all the “depends” on what follows.

As such, honestly, Missouri State.

Football only fans could not care less about Missouri State. For these purposes, though, football is only equal ground as all the other sports on campus. It’s also a sport that can’t really pick one of its opponents because nonconference opponents don’t stick for more than two straight years. Hard to build up any animosity or stakes in September twice every 20 years or whatever.

Arkansas baseball and Missouri State have quite the thing going. It dates back to 2015 when Arkansas made the College World Series. The Super Regional to get there was supposed to be held in Springfield, Mo., for the Bears. But they didn’t bother booking the stadium in advance, so the Springfield Cardinals, which play in the stadium, were home for a series. That meant the Razorbacks were able to host it at Baum Stadium. Arkansas won in three games, the clincher a 1-run win.

And, boy, the trash that was talked before the series began. Epic. Drew plenty of attention in baseball circles.

What followed in 2016 is a bit of a washout. Missouri State won both regular-season meetings, but that was a year Arkansas baseball finished the season with 13 straight losses. Worst season in modern school history.

They were back at it in 2017 as Arkansas hosted a regional with the Bears as a No. 2 seed. The Diamond Hogs won the penultimate game of the regional at 3 a.m., beating the Bears after a rain delay that made the time difference between first and last pitch 6 hours. Final score was 11-10. Missouri State came back hours later and eliminated the Diamond Hogs by just a run.

People don’t forget those types of games. Not the ones in 2015 and 2017, anyway. That’s how rivalries are built.