Across the SEC and the nation there continues to be talk that the Arkansas vs. LSU game is some sort of forced rivalry by the SEC. I heard it last year and I heard it again this week prior to the game, and funny enough I even heard it since the thrilling 33-30 overtime game that just concluded.
Obviously, few of those people have watched this matchup very closely over the years, but I am here to tell them that this game is a rivalry. You need not go any further than to watch highlights or the SEC replay of the game that ended in overtime Saturday night.
There is a long list of reasons why this game is a rivalry game.
First, this is a divisional conference game between two good teams. The SEC West has great teams that are "rivals" in every sense of the word when they play each other every year. If a divisional game is not a rivalry then I do not know what is anymore.
Second, this is a game involving border states that have football rivalries in high school and rivalries that transcend beyond football. There are social and political rivalries that have existed between these states over the years. There are constant recruiting battles because of the proximity of these states for players in football, and also jobs and tax dollars for the everyday citizens.
Third, this game is played for a trophy: the Golden Boot. This is not a trophy that was fabricated by the SEC. In fact, the Golden Boot rivalry game was spearheaded by an ex-Hog named David Bazzel.
Bazzel understood the importance of a rivalry game for the Razorbacks in the SEC, and pitched his idea to then AD Frank Broyles and in 1996 the tradition began. The Razorbacks had all these border state coincidences with Louisiana and already had a long history with LSU, first playing them in 1901.
The rivalry has been a great success, and with any competitive natured person the a gigantic trophy, or even a tiny trophy, makes winning even more important.
In the case of the Golden Boot we're are talking a monster trophy. It stands four feet tall and weighs in at 175 pounds. The trophy is the combined shape of Arkansas and LSU which forms the boot.
It takes a few teammates to lug this trophy around, and after two years in Northwest Arkansas it is headed back to Baton Rouge after the thrilling 33-30 overtime victory the Tigers just pulled out over the Hogs.
These are just a few of the truly endless reasons why this game is a great rivalry. The 2009 matchup proved even further that this is a great rivalry game that deserves continued exposure either by CBS like in the years past or by ESPN on prime time like it was featured this year.
Early in the contest, everything seemed to be going in the Tigers favor. They jumped out to a 17-3 lead and with the home crowd behind them it appeared they may run away from the Hogs.
However, the young Arkansas team proved there is some fight in these Hogs. They cut the halftime lead to 11 behind a late Alex Tejada field goal. In the second half things started to appear to go in Arkansas' favor.
The LSU home crowd grew silent on many occasions as the Hogs executed scoring drives and even took a three point lead with just over a minute remaining in regulation.
LSU eventually tied the game and forced overtime, where they had to settle for a field goal and were able to hold Arkansas to a 36-yard field goal attempt that was missed wide right by no more than a few feet.
Beyond all of the bordering circumstances and actual evidence over the recent years' great battles between these teams supporting this game as a rivalry game, there also are the emotions of the players and coaches.
Anyone that watched this Arkansas-LSU game saw an LSU crowd and team fired up to take on the Hogs, and likewise for Arkansas and how they wanted to take on the Bayou Bengals.
This was even more evident following the game. Les Miles seemed more thrilled in this win than he has in quite some time. Maybe that is because is job could have been on the line, but regardless this game made him giddy to say the least.
On the opposite end of this was Bobby Petrino and the Arkansas players. In the post game interviews there was a true disgust on all of their faces and a bitter disappointment that only comes when you lose to a rival.
This emotion was there following the four other Arkansas losses on the season, but not in the same magnitude. Just face it, Arkansas and LSU do not like each other and this game means far more than the normal game to everyone involved. That is a rivalry.
The 2009 game was another in a long line of great matchups between Arkansas-LSU that will go down as an instant classic. The game has had an imprint on the national title picture numerous times in its recent history, and likely will again in 2010 when these teams face each other.
All of these things support the extra significance of this game between these two teams. You can put your money in the bank that in 2010 this game will have as much or more emotion involved and so on and so on for the following years.
This is a matchup that builds from year to year in the anticipation by the fan bases, the players, and eventually it will garner further notice from the same media types that claim it to be a made up or forced rivalry.
If four overtimes in three years and six combined total points in separation between winning and losing is not a rivalry then I do not know what is.
This game simply is not only a rivalry, but has quickly become one of the best rivalries in all of college football.
That is just the plain truth, and anyone that says otherwise or cannot accept that either is missing what a rivalry is or needs to actual watch these games.
This is what a rivalry is all about, and I cannot wait until next season when these two great teams face off once again on the gridiron.