LSU vs. Arkansas: Why Isn't This a Bigger Rivalry Game in SEC?

Carter Bryant@carterthepowerContributor INovember 12, 2014

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Members of the LSU Tigers celebrate with 'The Boot' trophy after defeating the Arkansa Razorbacks 33-30 in overtime at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Some things do not make sense. 

LSU's clash with Arkansas is an annual thriller. Eight of the last nine battles have been decided by one possession. Major bowl berths have almost always been at stake on the last week of the season in this game.

The "rivalry" between the Tigers and the Razorbacks had become a Thanksgiving tradition. The game, more often than not, has been played on the Friday after Turkey Day to close out each team's regular season. Fans always knew they would be in for a treat. 

But "The Battle of the Golden Boot" got booted.

Arkanssa running back Darren McFadden hugs Houston Nutt after the Razorbacks upset No. 1 LSU.
Arkanssa running back Darren McFadden hugs Houston Nutt after the Razorbacks upset No. 1 LSU.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Saturday's game will not be played on the week of Thanksgiving for the first time in the Golden Boot era. LSU's annual Thanksgiving week clash is now with Texas A&M, while the Hogs replaced the Bayou Bengals with Missouri. 

Texas A&M and LSU have some history. The potential is there for the game to become something special, especially since the Aggies will not play Texas anytime soon. Nevertheless, the Longhorns will always be their top rival. 

The Tigers and Aggies were both instrumental in making each other a traditional Thanksgiving opponent, per Robbie Neiswanger of ArkansasNews.com. The switch was done much to the dismay of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long and head coach Bret Bielema.

Speaking to reporters in 2013, Long said:

I don’t want to dramatize it, but I certainly made my feelings known strongly and in an appropriate manner within the conference. So they knew where I stood clearly on it. But at the same time you understand that it is a conference of 14 and the SEC has a number of objectives they have to try to meet in that schedule and very disappointingly and unfortunately for us, a game that has developed into a rivalry at the end of the season won’t be there. 

Long is right; the game has developed into a heavily anticipated matchup for Arkansas fans. But has it translated to the people of Louisiana? The answer is cloudier than one might think.  

Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers (No. 86) rushes LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings (No. 10) in last year's contest. The two will meet again on Saturday in Fayetteville.
Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers (No. 86) rushes LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings (No. 10) in last year's contest. The two will meet again on Saturday in Fayetteville.Bill Haber/Associated Press

Most LSU fans look forward to Auburn, Alabama and Florida more than they do Arkansas. This is partially because they do not view the Razorbacks as a championship-level program.

Arkansas does not have the same national brand name as some of the other schools in the SEC West. That does come as a surprise, though, as the Razorbacks have a famous and diverse group of supporters, including Bill Clinton, Jerry Jones and Bobby Bones. Also, the Hogs' athletic department was 14th in the country in revenue generated last season, per USA Today 

But why should anyone care if the Razorbacks have a mediocre national reputation? They are the Tigers' best-suited rival.

LSU and Arkansas are the only Power Five conference teams in their respective states. Though the two universities are a lengthy 10-hour drive from one another, the two states share a border where fans of each team bleed over. They already have a cool trophy and a catchy name. 

What else does there need to be?

The Battle of the Golden Boot has been undoubtedly overshadowed by the prestige and history of Alabama and Auburn's Iron Bowl and Mississippi State and Ole Miss' Egg Bowl. LSU wants to have what those schools have. Unfortunately, Arkansas, not Texas A&M, gave the Tigers the best chance of achieving that. 

LSU's yearly matchup against Arkansas will still be special for years to come, though at a different time of the year. The Hogs are a slight favorite over the Tigers on Saturday, per OddsShark.com. So expect another closely contested, smashmouth slobber-knocker that will be decided in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, the Golden Boot will not have that same feel as it once did. It is a hotly contested rivalry game not played on rivalry weekend. 

And that is a shame. 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.

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