Every year at this time things get pretty heated between football fans in the Show-Me State and people from the land of corn. One of the arguments that keeps popping up on message boards and blogs around the Internet is whether or not the Tigers and Huskers are actually rivals. To me, it’s a very strange conversation to keep rehashing.

I guess it depends on your definition of “rivalry.” Only the most arrogant of kU fans would argue that Mizzou and kansas aren’t rivals in basketball despite the beakers historically having a sizeable competitive edge over Mizzou.

I also find it bizarre that so many Nubs fans are so adamant about not being rivals with Missouri. Being another team’s rival doesn’t mean your admitting you’re inferior (or even not superior) to them.

I guess the definition of a rivalry is very open to interpretation but here’s something I think we all can agree on: Rivalries are born naturally. They aren’t manufactured by ESPN bigwigs like the Kobe-LeBron thing last spring. It also takes more than proximity to one another and an annual match-up (a la the Arch Rivalry series).

What it takes more than anything is a legitimate dislike of each other and unadulterated blood-boiling hate. I don’t think there’s any question these two teams and fan bases have that. I know you’ll hear Nubs fans arguing they hate any team that stands between them and a conference championship and it just so happens that the last few years that team has been Missouri. They’ll claim that alone doesn’t mean this is a rivalry.

Except it’s a lot more than that. Kellen Houston didn’t punch out a Colorado fan. He punched a Tiger fan. Ndamukong Suh didn’t spit in Josh Freeman’s face. He spat on Chase Daniel. Gary Pinkel didn’t run a fake field goal when he was up 34-6 against Iowa State. He did it against the Cornhuskers.

I realize for decades this game absolutely did not matter. Missouri was a joke and Nebraska was as good of a team as you could find in all of sports. In those years the rivalry lost its pulse. It was a vegetable. But don’t ignore what this game meant before the MU football program went to hell. Listen to players from the Faurot and Devine years talk about what Mizzou-Nebraska was about back then. Sounds like a little more than just another game. So even though this game was meaningless for decades that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in history. This party didn’t just start in ’03.

Again, I know all of this isn’t going to mean anything to Husker fans. They’ll point to Mizzou’s lack of national success. They’ll point to the K-State and Colorado fans of the ‘90s who tried to say they were Nebraska’s rival. But read the comments from some of the current players and I think they’ll tell you something different.

Sam Keller’s gone on the radio and bashed Chase Daniel. Chase Daniel’s “dirtiest team he’s ever played against” comments were well publicized. Mizzou players have called this the biggest game of the year. Don’t tell me there’s not hate for one another in each locker room because we all know that there is.

But it’s OK. Go ahead and deny that this thing means just a little more than most of the other games on the schedule. Go ahead and insist that you hate Iowa State fans just as much as Missouri’s. Keep living in your Big Red bubble of ignorance.

Because reasonable college football fans can admit that this thing has been a rivalry before and it’s a rivalry again. And if I had to guess I’d say things are going to keep escalating. Like every other Mizzou fan I’m sick of hearing “NEBRASKA’S BACK!” But truth be told I think Jesus Bo Pelini has that program well on its way. And since we’re being honest, tomorrow night scares the hell out of me. I have no idea how Big Blaine is going to respond to this type of pressure.

But even if Mizzou hasn’t reached the national prestige the program desires and Nebraska had for decades I think it’s obvious that Gary Pinkel is in the process of proving that his program is here to compete for Big 12 North titles for the foreseeable future.

And while those guys in Larryville have a pretty good thing going themselves and look like they’ve got a good shot at representing the North this season, I think they’re probably due for a major step back next year. I think we’re seeing the Tigers and Huskers establish themselves as the class of this division. They could be trading blows for a while.

But rivalry or not, lets do this shit.