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IT’S TIME TO ONCE AGAIN BEAT OUR MOST HATED RIVAL

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Louisiana State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

An ode to those pilfering pigs from Fayetteville:

First they came for my rich donor and I did not speak out because we already had his money.

Then they came for my basketball coach and I did not speak out because it was basketball.

Then they came for my football coach and I did not speak out because he couldn’t recruit.

Then they came for my football players and I did not speak out because they weren’t any good.

But now all of those things they’ve taken are coming for me and I can’t speak out because no one is left to listen.*

*No, I’m not comparing an exodus of Missouri personnel to Arkansas as equal to Nazi’s locking up and murdering Jews. Just using the poem style as a template. The editor ok’ed it.

Apparently Arkansas figured that, if nabbing Donald W. Reynolds, Mike Anderson, Barry Odom, and Mike Scherer wasn’t enough to stop Missouri from winning five straight over their beloved Razorback football team, they might as well try stealing the players, too.

And while Markell Utsey has provided a respectable 13 tackles on his 321 snaps at his tackle position, Tre Williams has finally found his footing at the college level: 35 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4 run stuffs, 32 quarterback pressures, 6 sacks. As a reference point, those are only 2 fewer sacks than he logged in his entire four years at Missouri and would lead the 2021 Tigers as well. How does a guy leave a Barry Odom defense for a Barry Odom defense at another school and get better? Beats me!

Regardless, he and the Razorbacks are having an excellent year, showing continued growth off of the greatest 3-win season of all time (put your hand down, 2021 Nebraska). They employ (for now) two of the best coordinators in the country and have been recruiting their asses off. The difference between Arkansas and Missouri, then, is that the Razorbacks have had excellent recruiting for years - even under the disastrous Chad Morris - whereas Missouri is just starting to crack into “great” recruiting territory.

But, then again, Missouri has a five-game winning streak over THEIR MOST HATED RIVAL OF ALL TIME (presented by Shelter Insurance). College football is a weird sport.

Here’s what the Arkansas season has been so far:

2021 Arkansas Schedule

Arkansas started the season with four straight wins, including taking down a Top 10 Texas A&M in Jerry World before losing three straight against Georgia, Ole Miss, and Auburn. Outside of the Mississippi State win, Arkansas tends to operate at 100% win expectancy when they do get the win and get absolutely skunked when they lose a game. Granted, all of their losses are to Top 30 teams (Top 15 if you remove Auburn) so that tends to make sense. They lost to Alabama on the road last week but played them extremely close; what does that mean for this week’s game? Who knows! We’ll find out together.

Here’s an update to what Missouri has done so far:

2021 Missouri Schedule

Clearly Florida was the best win of the season for Mizzou but, given the decline in quality as the year has gone on, an Arkansas win would supplant that for “best of the season”. Notice the 46% win probability: feels right, yeah? Neither team really did enough to pull away and Mizzou won it on a last second two point conversion. Tough, gritty wins count!

So let’s see how Mizzou can keep the five-game win streak going:

When Missouri Has the Ball

Missouri’s Offense vs. Arkansas’ Defense

Here’s an odd tidbit: Arkansas’ front seven feature three 2-stars and a 3-star and are a solid, efficiency-erasing run front. Their secondary - littered with blue-chip recruits - ranks in the bottom portion of pass defense, including one of the worst at giving up big pass plays. Go figure.

Stay Efficient

NCAA Football: Florida at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the best run front Missouri has seen since the Georgia game so don’t expect any easy yards from Tyler Badie this week. Arkansas is much better at stopping the run than the pass but have excelled at keeping offenses inefficient, preferring to stuff them on standard downs and force offenses to convert on passing downs. And while Arkansas isn’t the best at getting offenses into passing downs, that are absolutely lethal when they do, ranking 9th in passing downs defense. The plan, then, is to make sure that the Tigers get something on every play, just enough yardage to stay away from obvious passing situations. Arkansas opponents love to run on standard downs and pass on passing downs which is the blueprint Missouri typically follows as well; if Missouri can keep more than 60% of their plays in standard down situations they should be ok.

Land Some Haymakers

NCAA Football: North Texas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

You remember Barry Odom’s defenses, right? Suffocating, aggressive, and an absolute liability to give up a handful of back-breaking big plays at the absolute worst moment possible. It happened throughout his four-year tenure as Missouri’s head coach and it absolutely lost him the game last year when Tyler Badie ripped off not ONE, but TWO big plays in the 4th quarter. You’ll be pleased to hear that this is still the case as the Razorbacks are one of the worst teams in the country at giving up big plays, particularly in passing down situations (108th). Missouri’s big plays all stem from Tyler Badie’s legs and rarely from the passing game but, however they can do it, they need to shoot for at least eight explosive plays against this defense.

Finish your dang drives

NCAA Football: Florida at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas’ defense is giving up less than 4 points per scoring opportunity while their offense is averaging almost 5 points per scoring opportunity. Mizzou’s defense did a great job the past two weeks in either limiting opportunities (five for South Carolina) or limiting the points scored (3.3 for Florida). Missouri’s offense is limited but is capable of jury-rigging scoring drives from the bleakest of positions. I’ll say that 7 trips with at least 4 points per opportunity should do it.

When Arkansas Has the Ball

Missouri’s Defense vs. Arkansas’ Offense

Treylon Burks is a one-man wrecking crew from his receiver position, and both K.J. Jefferson and Trelon Smith have the annoying tendency to get at least 3-yards every time they carry the ball. The Razorbacks are the opposite of Missouri’s offense: efficiency based running game, big explosive plays in the passing game. That’s what happens when you have a tremendous ground game and run play-action off of it. NOVEL CONCEPT, HUH???????

Nullify the Ground Game

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Garbage-human-being Kendal Briles is still running the Arkansas offense and, as you should know by now, the Briles scheme is all based around a quick-hitting run game. It’s never anything fancy - usually inside power, outside zone, and various read-keepers on either of those - but it sets them up for play-action passes based around those same looks and it’s deadly effective. You know the best way to eliminate play action? Stop the run! As you are painfully aware, Missouri’s run defense is light years better over the past four games and must do the same again this week. The Tigers should shoot to keep the Pigs rushing success rate under 40%.

HAVOC!

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that Arkansas does really well is not turning the ball over. They do have 12 fumbles on the year but have only thrown three interceptions. Fumbles happen when you run a ton of zone-read but they’re usually recovered by the QB quickly; not throwing interceptions is a testament to their scheme and smart decision-making from Jefferson. So if you don’t have a shot at turning them over then you need to wreck their plans the old fashioned way: tackles for loss, passes defensed, sacks, and run stuffs. Missouri has been over 20% in the havoc department in three of that last four games; if they can make it four of five and notch a 25% havoc rate with even one turnover then you know they’ll be cookin’.

Conclusion

Win streaks are fun but mostly meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It’s fun to hold over a rival fan base but whatever you did last year doesn’t mean jack squat for this year. I would love if Missouri could keep it up but this Arkansas team is legit good and looking to close out an already excellent year with a thumping of what might one of the most annoying teams in their existence right now. Whatever hope Missouri’s rejuvenated defense gives me is immediately sapped by the reminder that the Tigers will be trotting out a guy at quarterback who can’t run and can’t put any strength behind his throws. This season is a salvaged win regardless of what happens here but it would be hilariously fun to see the win streak increase to six.