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SEC Media Days Football

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa speaks to reporters during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

HOOVER, Ala. — The Arkansas-Missouri football rivalry game is on the move again this year. For each of the last five years the Razorbacks and Tigers have shifted their Battle Line Rivalry game to the Friday after Thanksgiving. That’s the case again this fall — the teams play their regular-season finale on Nov. 29 on CBS — but Arkansas is moving the game off campus from Fayetteville to Little Rock, 190 miles away in the middle of the state.

Arkansas has played at least one game in the state capital at War Memorial Stadium every season since 1948, a tradition that’s polarized fans, coaches and politicians alike across the Natural State. Once Arkansas fulfilled its Little Rock contract with a 2018 game there against Ole Miss, it was no secret that former Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long favored ending the practice.

But Long was fired in 2017, and with Gov. Asa Hutchinson in full support, AD Hunter Yurachek arranged for the Mizzou series to move there for 2019, 2021 and 2023. Arkansas also plans to play its spring scrimmage in Little Rock in 2020, 2022 and 2024.

One drawback to playing in Little Rock: The Razorbacks aren’t allowed to host recruits off campus at War Memorial like they would a normal home game in Fayetteville. War Memorial’s capacity is 54,120, much smaller than Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (76,212) in Fayetteville.

Second-year coach Chad Morris gave the move a positive public spin Wednesday at Southeastern Conference media days.

“It will be a great environment in Little Rock on Thanksgiving weekend,” Morris said. “That will be a lot of fun that weekend. I know when we went down there and played in Little Rock this past year, it was a driving rainstorm and cold. The environment was unbelievable. So when that opportunity gets here, we’ll be excited about it.”

Some much-needed stadium upgrades are part of Arkansas’ six-year agreement with the state’s Department of Parks and Tourism. War Memorial has already installed a new artificial turf this year, which should please Arkansas players who aren’t fans of the former turf’s hard surface.

“The turf is old and harder than any other regular turf,” linebacker De’Jon Harris said. “We have a lot of injuries there. Every time I leave there I’ve got a different type of injury that nags me the rest of the year. Playing there, I don’t have a problem with it. Do we want to play there? No, but just playing for the Little Rock fans and letting them see us is special.”

Mizzou leads the all-time series against Arkansas 7-3 with just one previous matchup in Little Rock, a 7-6 Tigers’ win in 1963.

MORE LOVE FOR BRYANT

Another day at SEC media days supplied more high praise for new Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant. Two years ago Bryant led Clemson to a 34-10 victory over in-state rival South Carolina, throwing for 272 yards and a couple touchdowns.

“I got a lot of respect for Kelly and the job he’s done at Clemson and then moving forward to Missouri,” said Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp, who’s 3-0 against Missouri at South Carolina but 0-1 against Bryant. “Really good football player. Accurate with the football, dual-threat guy that can hurt you with his legs as well.

“But I probably think his best attributes as a player is his intangible qualities. The guy is an outstanding leader. He positively affects people around him. He gets guys going and believing in what you need to do to be successful. It will be a very smooth transition for him, in my opinion, as far as that’s concerned. Just an outsider looking in, you can see the positive impact he’s already had on that program.”

South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson, a Columbia, S.C., native, grew up about 100 miles away from Bryant’s hometown of Piedmont, S.C. He hasn’t forgotten the 2017 Clemson matchup.

“I’m looking forward to playing against him in an SEC game,” Brunson said. “We’re there this year (at Mizzou). It’s going to be big to see how he’s developed and come along at Missouri this year. It should be a good game.”

BIG TALK

Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond turned heads Tuesday when he told reporters he was the best quarterback in the SEC. What say you, Tua Tagovailoa?

“I have tremendous amount of respect for Kellen,” said the Alabama QB, last year’s Heisman runner-up. “He’s my friend. We’ve been hanging out at Steve Clarkson’s (quarterback camp) for as long as I can remember. I don’t take anything away from him. He’s a great football player. If anyone else thinks they’re great, that’s good for them, too. We just all have to go out and prove ourselves.”

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Dave Matter is the Mizzou beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.