Each game has certain matchups within it that are oh so very important to the outcome. Matchups so important that they can be the difference in a win and a loss. For every game this season, I’ll be taking a look at the three most important matchups regarding an individual or even between position groups.
Missouri’s Offensive Line vs Arkansas’ Offensive Line
Missouri’s offensive line has plodded through this season with mostly bad results, but one thing that is good at this point in the season, you should have an idea of what you have with the guys in this unit. The offensive staff, at this point in the season should have enough of a sample size to know what works best for these guys and what doesn’t.
For example, Missouri has ran a lot of outside zone, and done it successfully in the Drinkwitz era. It’s been a staple run concept. This year however, they’ve struggled with it every week due to the talent level of their offensive linemen. Yet, it is still their most ran concept this season. We know what the situation is here with this unit, but I think it’s really important for them to be put in the best positions to succeed. There is no sense on spamming outside zone if you don’t have the guys who can seal the edge. If that means limiting your run game to schemes like inside zone, power and counters, then that just may be what it means.
Brady Cook vs Arkansas’ Defense
Some how, some way, Brady Cook has managed to string together multiple weeks of good quarterback play. He again wasn’t asked to do too much against New Mexico State, but when he was, he did a good job. I’ve tried to be fair to Cook in recognizing that this is his first year of college football playing extended game snaps. There’s an adjustment period for most players and we as fans should recognize that Cook is still getting better.
I’m fascinated to see if some of what has happened the past few weeks is fluky, or if Cook has turned some sort of a corner. There are signs that he has figured some things out. He’s making better decisions in the run game as well as the pass and cut the turnovers out of his game. If he has another good game this week, we may have to reconsider what Cook actually is in the context of this second half of the season and what his future may look like with more development.
Missouri’s Special Teams vs Arkansas’ Special Teams
We don’t talk about this enough, but this year’s Tigers have been pretty bad on special teams. Missouri has plenty of dynamic players on the roster but gets pretty much nothing out of their return game. Oftentimes, poor decision making and penalties end up leaving them in an overall negative spot. Their punter is merely average, and for as much as this offense has forced him to be trotted out, he’s been exposed as the season has gone on. The one positive of all of the special teams has been Harrison Mevis, and even he has been unreliable at times.
All of this is to say that against Arkansas, they can’t be a net negative. The margin for error is far too small and this game will, in all likelihood, be close. Special teams don’t even have to be a battle that they win, but it has to be a battle that they don’t lose. Those little things are the differences between wins and losses.