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Moving the Arkansas game to Kansas City could be a really good thing

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Mizzou’s announcement yesterday was one met with mild antipathy, but the move is a smart one.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Neutral site games in college football have become a more frequent norm over the last decade or more. Early in the season you get them sprinkled in with a few heavy hitter matchups. Some major rivalries have moved to a more permanent setup like the Florida-Georgia matchup in Jacksonville. Missouri had a lot of success with their Border rivalry games against Kansas at Arrowhead until the Jayhawks decided it might be better for them to stop fielding a football team for a while.

Yesterday, Mizzou announced their 2020 matchup against Arkansas will be held at Arrowhead Stadium instead of Faurot Field. It will be their first neutral site non-bowl appearance since the Tigers took on BYU in 2015.

Playing in Arrowhead itself fulfills a few different promises, most notably to a few Kansas City area curators about keeping their presence in KC active. The promise has been largely fulfilled with Missouri’s activity in the Hall of Fame classic at the Sprint Center, and now they’re going back to Arrowhead.

Choosing the Battle-Line Rivalry and Arkansas as the opportunity for this game is a smart one. In an effort to feature this new rivalry, Mizzou and Arkansas have been forced into this annual game at the end of the season where it’s largely been met with moderate levels of interest. Missouri is 4-1 in the matchup (since joining the SEC) with Arkansas’ only win coming in 2015. And only once has the game featured a ranked team— the Tigers were ranked 17th in 2014. So it would make some sense to try and generate a little more interest in a floundering game.

I’m sure if the Tigers and Razorbacks play another 10 years and both teams have some success overall, the interest will pick up. But until then, the series will need any shots to the arm it can take.

Maybe Arkansas and Mizzou are top 20 teams next year and that level of interest, along with the proximity to Columbia and an easy drive up from Fayetteville to Kansas City, might be enough to fill the building. Since the game is played the day after Thanksgiving with an empty campus, the game has often been lightly attended. Arkansas is hosting the game this year in Little Rock, and next year Missouri hosts in Kansas City. It would seem both athletic departments are betting on the same thing.

Moving the game to larger population centers will hopefully do enough to boost initial attendance, in turn buying some needed time for the rivalry to continue to grow.