HOOVER, Ala. — On Monday, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema announced his desire to help stoke the burgeoning rivalry between his Razorbacks and the Missouri Tigers.
As long as Eric Beisel plays for the Tigers, though, Bielema won’t have to do much work.
The “Battle Line Rivalry” — the forced, generic name given to this annual cross-divisional matchup which began three years ago — should be renamed the Beisel Bowl. Before the teams played in November 2016, Beiesel said if Arkansas showed up “it’d be a huge mistake.” In February — and after apologizing to Bielema — Beisel tweeted out a similar statement in regards to an upcoming basketball game between the two schools.
On Wednesday, in a small media session, reporters again asked Beisel about the rivalry. At first, the fire-bearded Beisel wouldn’t take the bait.
And then, a turn.
“Like I said, I can’t say much on that,” Beisel said with a smile. “I will say that that team down south will always be below us — at least geographically, they will always be below us.”
Before fans start the cathartic action of rage-commenting, relax. In wrestling, this would be called a work. It’s kayfabe. Beisel, a showman if there ever was one, knows exactly what he’s doing and after Bielema’s comments on Monday, it all seems part of a bigger act. Bielema said he wants to “flame the fires” of the rivalry, and Beisel is doing just that. It even seems more orchestrated given the fact that Bielema and Missouri coach Barry Odom are friends.
“Nobody wants to hear it, but Bret and I talk quite a bit,” Odom said Wednesday. “There’ll be some flame-stoking today, so get ready. That’s why I brought Beisel.”
Beisel delivered in buckets. On the possibility of a Missouri-Arkansas high school football game, which Bielema mentioned Monday, Beisel was ready:
“It just seems like we get all the top Arkansas recruits here,” Beisel said. “So, I don’t know how productive that would be, so if (they) want to play powerhouses like Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Parkway Central, guys out of those — you know, Ezekiel Elliott, guys like that. Let’s make it happen.”
(While Elliott spurned Missouri for Ohio State, he went to John Burroughs High School in St. Louis. So, if the all-star game started a few years ago, Elliott would have certainly been able to represent the state of Missouri in it.)
Bravo to both Missouri and Arkansas for embracing this act. In an otherwise boring and vanilla week at SEC Media Days, the Tigers and the Razorbacks are embracing the heel turn and working all of us. So, Arkansas and Missouri fans, let’s all kick back and start to really appreciate this rivalry that’s getting better and better.