On the line for Mizzou is playing for a better bowl game, and their sixth consecutive win over Arkansas in the “Battle Line Rivalry” game. It’s certainly not going to be easy, as the Razorbacks come in at No. 25 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll and in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
To get a perspective on the Razorbacks, I talked it over with Jacob Davis from SB Nation’s Arkansas Fight. Here’s the Q and A to get you ready for the match up:
Sammy Stava: Arkansas has had a really successful season this year, clinching bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016, being ranked for most of the year, and they have a bunch of signature wins on their resume. They’ve done this with arguably the toughest schedule in the country. Do you think Sam Pittman should be the front runner for SEC Coach of the Year, and perhaps in the running for National Coach of the Year?
Jacob Davis: I think he should definitely be a favorite for SEC Coach of the Year. Where he has brought this Razorback program out of what looked like death penalty restrictions is nothing short of a miracle.
If Pittman doesn’t receive it, it definitely should be awarded to Kirby Smart and the job he has done for Georgia. As far as national coach of the year I doubt he will be awarded as a finalist. I expect it to go to Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell is they make the playoffs.
SS: With this game, we have to ask about former Mizzou head coach Barry Odom. How has his second year gone as Arkansas’ defensive coordinator? Have you been pleased with the performance of the defense this year?
JD: I love Barry as the defensive coordinator. He has turned this defense around as expected in two years just like he has done everywhere else he coached. Arkansas is mismatched at several positions but he schemes against those. The four games stretch and his gameplans against Miss State and LSU were phenomenal. He’s done a great job!
SS: How would grade the quarterback play of KJ Jefferson this season? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
JD: KJ has absolutely exceeded all expectations as QB1 this season. Was he going to be too big to hold up? Is he going to be accurate enough? How dependable will he be? All those questions have been answered and he has held up tremendously. He’s quietly having one of the best seasons as a quarterback in Razorback history. Jefferson’s QBR is on track to best Brandon Allen’s 2015 season with a strong closing to 2021.
His strengths are being able to run the football willingly and his accuracy on the deep ball.
The only weakness is when the offense gets behind on 3rd and longs. The Razorbacks don’t convert many long distance third downs
SS: Arkansas gave it their all in Tuscaloosa, but couldn’t quite pull off the upset. Playing a team the week right after facing Alabama is always tough, especially this one since it’s a short turnaround. Do you think that could be a factor in this game?
JD: Arkansas seems to be “getting up” for every opponent no matter what time of the season it is.
Sam Pittman has the Hogs attention of regaining the Battle Line Trophy and ending a long streak of five straight losses to Missouri.
Last weeks game was physical against Alabama but I don’t expect a letdown at home on senior day.
SS: While the Tigers have had the Razorbacks number lately having won five straight, Arkansas opened as a 14 point favorite. Do you think the recent series history matters in a rivalry game like this? How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Have a final score prediction?
JD: I think containing Tyler Badie will be a task for the Hogs on Friday. If they can do that and keep the passing game by Missouri to a minimum the Razorbacks could pick up the win.
I expect a lethal dose of Dominique Johnson who is wanting to prove himself against a Missouri team that he was committed to for the longest before a flip on National Signing Day. I think he could have a good day against a below average Missouri run defense.
I think Arkansas could win by more than 14 but with this rivalry game heating up it could comes own to the wire.
I’ll go with Arkansas 48-42.
Let’s end the regular season with a win. M-I-Z!