The Arkansas-Missouri game on Saturday should be an interesting one. The Razorbacks have lost three straight against the Tigers and only own three wins in the all-time series. Arkansas is coming off a 27-24 loss to LSU on November 21, while Missouri defeated Vanderbilt 41-0 last Saturday.
While this game has no SEC Championship implications, both teams are fighting for a potential bowl berth. Sitting at 3-5, Arkansas has to win against the Tigers this weekend to even be considered for a bowl. But, a potential match-up against #1 Alabama next Saturday could shutter those bowl berth hopes for the Razorbacks. A win for Missouri would push them one game closer to a near-lock for a bowl game.
While both the Razorbacks and Tigers are seeking a potential bowl berth. A much more meaningful storyline clouds this game. Sam Pittman has led the Hogs to 3 wins this season, which already beats their total conference wins over the past two years. Before Pittman arrived in Fayetteville, the Hogs went 0-16 in SEC games between 2018 and 2019. The Razorbacks’ three wins in 2020 show that Pittman and his staff are slowly beginning to turn the program around.
Heading into Saturday’s game, the Razorbacks defense has to step up. The defense is allowing 427.6 yards per game and give up 30.9 points per game. In comparison, Missouri’s offense is averaging 24.4 points and 403.6 total yards of offense.
How the Arkansas defense can win the battle against Missouri
Against LSU, Arkansas allowed 271 passing yards and 419 total yards in the three-point loss. Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak averages 267 passing yards per game. For a Razorbacks defense that has struggled to defend the pass, this is a warning flag heading into the game.
If the defense can contain Bazelak early on in the passing attack, then the unit could win that battle. However, it will be up to the Arkansas offense to win the game. Feliepe Franks averages 252 yards passing per game. That statistic has to be greater than his average against a solid Tigers defense.
Arkansas’ leading tackler, linebacker Grant Morgan, has been a dominating factor when the Hogs are on defense. Expect Morgan to earn tackles all over the field on Saturday and be a key factor in defending the pass.
Special Teams Perfection
On the season, Arkansas kicker A.J. Reed is a perfect 23-of-23 on extra points. In the field goal kicking aspect, he is 7-of-11 and his longest kick is 48 yards. Should this game come down to the wire and a potential Arkansas game-winning field goal, Reed could come up clutch for a monumental win for Pittman and his Razorbacks program.
Arkansas Offense Has to Drive the Ball
The Razorbacks offense has to drive the ball down the field. Arkansas is averaging 395.1 yards of offense per game. Facing a stout Missouri defense could force the Hogs to make quick decisions in crucial situations. Franks and the Razorbacks have to make the smart decisions to move the ball down the field and ultimately score.
If the team fails to find the end zone more than four times, Missouri could walk away with their fifth win of the season. However, this is an Arkansas offense that has surprised the doubters this season with the numbers they have put up in some games.
Though the Razorbacks haven’t played in two weeks, facing a 4-3 Missouri team gives the Hogs a chance to steal a big win in SEC play.
Franks has become the leader that Arkansas has been needing for a long time, and the Razorbacks’ offense can put up points. The defense is the main question though, as the unit tends to give up too many yards and more points than defensive coordinator Barry Odom would like.
Although, Missouri is a team that can be contained if Bazelak is having an off day in the pocket. If there is any time for the Arkansas defense to step up, it is right now against Missouri.
This Arkansas-Missouri match-up has the potential to be one of the best SEC games of the weekend, though both teams are searching for a big win.
Despite being a three-point underdog, Arkansas will find a way to leave Columbia with a victory on Saturday. Franks and the Hogs’ offense will have a huge day and the defense will stop Bazelak and the Tigers’ offense late. Razorbacks 31, Tigers 27.