It’s the final game of the regular season, and quite frankly, this one is a dud. In this next edition of “The Battle Line Rivalry”, the Missouri Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC) look to salvage a .500 record against the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-9, 0-7 SEC), who have lost 18 consecutive conference games. With officially no bowl game to play for now, this will mark Kelly Bryant’s last game as a Missouri Tiger. Barry Odom’s job will possibly be on the line in this one as well.
To get his thoughts on the Arkansas program, here’s what Saul Malone from Arkansas Fight had to say about the Chad Morris experience, candidates to be the Razorbacks’ next head coach, and much more.
Sammy Stava: Why didn’t the whole Chad Morris experience work out? Was it the lack of talent or players not buying into his system? Was the timing right to fire him before his second season even ended?
Saul Malone: I just don’t think Chad was cut out to be a head coach. He said all the right things at the beginning of his tenure to get people on his side, and then he just didn’t deliver on any of those promises. I don’t think it was lack of talent, I think it was not knowing what to do with the talent he had. He couldn’t figure out what to do at quarterback to save his life. Rakeem Boyd was half our offense and would go incredibly long stretches without even touching the ball. He had no idea what his offensive identity was and he didn’t do anything to really figure it out. He allegedly lost the locker room halfway through the Kentucky game and I don’t find that hard to believe at all. He had a bad habit of assigning blame to anybody but himself and just trying to press conference his way out of everything without achieving any real results. I know it may seem early to abandon that ship, but Chad had lost pretty much everyone: players, fans, donors. Everybody was apathetic. It was time to move on.
SS: Who are some realistic candidates to become Arkansas’ next head coach?
SM: I’m looking at Mike Norvell from Memphis, Matt Campbell at Iowa State, Lane Kiffin from FAU, Eli Drinkwitz from App State, Willie Fritz from Tulane, and Mike Leach from Washington St.
SS: I’d figure the motivational factor will be pretty low in this game between a 5-6 and 2-9 team. But Barry Odom may very well be coaching for his job in this one. On the Arkansas side, do you think they’ll show up motivated to get a win for their interim coach?
SM: I think so! If you saw us play at LSU last week, we actually came out strong and got some stops and moved the ball a little, but most of all, we looked like we wanted to play ball, at least for a little bit. I think the guys will come out and play for Barry Lunney Jr. Not to belittle your team, but the Mizzou Tigers are decidedly NOT the LSU Tigers this year. I think we can play with you guys and I think Lunney will have them prepared and ready.
SS: I know this is called “The Battle Line Rivalry”, but as far as rivalries go, this just doesn’t do it for me, probably because recently there’s just little on the line when these two teams meet. Are you in the same boat as I am with this?
SM: We are definitely in the same boat. I don’t want to speak for all Arkansas fans, but man, this “rivalry” (brought to you by Shelter Insurance) feels so forced and corporate. It wasn’t a natural rivalry that developed over time like Arkansas vs LSU in football or the awesome Mizzou vs Kansas basketball rivalry y’all have. And like you said, there’s never been anything on the line when it comes to this game. It always seems to be for “pride” or MAYBE bowl eligibility? That gets a big “who cares” from me. I’m not getting fired up for it by any means.
SS: Finally, how do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Have a final score prediction?
SM: I’m not sure how familiar you are with Arkansas Football, but this is the infamous Little Rock Game™ where weird things happen, like losing to Toledo or Louisiana-Monroe. I think this is gonna be a weird game. You guys have not played well away this year and the Little Rock fans can get rowdy before, during, and after the game. I think it’s a sloppy game and not super fun to watch. I’m picking with my heart and not head here, but I think the Hogs pull out a win in Little Rock for Barry Lunney. 24 – 17.