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Missouri 21, Arkansas 14: The Tigers' offensive line is coming together

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Offensive line play was key and will be again.

Paul Halfacre

Let me state up front I only got to watch the second half closely, so I won't talk about the first half other than to say the defense kept things from getting out of hand until the offense found its way.

1. The Offensive Line is Coming Together

I've never liked the truism that "defense wins championships." It's not outright false so much as just "truthy" enough to not be very insightful. In a time-delimited game, where it is theoretically possible for Team A to deny Team B possession of the ball entirely, the offense's job is far more complex than the defense's. A really talented offense can limit a crappy defense's exposure to unfavorable situations. On the other hand, anyone who watched the Missouri-Georgia game saw a quality defense helpless against its own offense's determined efforts to actively sabotage it.

My preferred truism? Defense tells us about a team's floor while offense tells us about its ceiling.

How close a team comes to reaching its ceiling is about how the offensive line comes together more than any other unit. Just over a year ago I was making this exact point. To win in November teams must sustain drives, simple as that. This line doesn't (in my amateur estimation) have quite the talent of the 2013 group, and it has taken a while to gel. As late as the Florida game, this group couldn't string together more than a two or three good plays. But, beginning at Texas A&M, this offensive line started opening holes and providing time for Mauk. This is now a unit that can run and throw when it wants, and where one bad play doesn't necessarily ruin a drive. It can keep a defense on the field.

2. Can Someone Tell Me What Has Happened to Special Teams?

Andrew Baggett has been a bit of an adventure throughout his career. So that's no surprise. But the blocking, coverage, and recognition of fakes? Um. We've not seen much of this kind of play in the kicking game under Pinkel in quite some time. Alabama looms. They're not unbeatable, but they are explosive. It's not a game to simply hand over field position.

3. Arkansas is Already An Important Rivalry

The game itself will likely go some way to increasing the intensity of the rivalry, but Arkansas is already a rival in recruiting. That's damned near as important as what's going on Saturdays. I strongly suspect that Brett Bielema and Gary Pinkel will be interested in many of the same prospects in the years to come.

So, score one for the good guys.