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Arkansas Razorbacks Preview

GO WIN THAT TROPHY.

Mississippi State v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

I can NOT believe K.J. Jefferson decided to come back for this crap.

I understand that he’s probably never going to get a real look as a starting quarterback in the NFL, so I certainly get wanting to extend your playing career by another year.

But...bro...you decided to come back and play for this team? The one that, when I previewed it in the summer, already had some massive red flags?

A team that hired a middling (at best) OC that has job-hopped out of necessity and never run the up-tempo, spread-run style offense that made Jefferson and dynamic running back Rocket Sanders a star?

A team that lost said star running back to injury and has only 62 carries on the year?

A team that lost every single receiver and tight end of note and replaced them with a transfer from Bowling Green, two FCS transfers, and a D-II transfer?

A team that hired a DC that never fielded a defense that ranked better than 60th in SP+ and paired him with a recruiter who never held a coordinator position before?

That team?

I understand you can’t anticipate injuries but still...K.J. Jefferson has been a tremendous SEC quarterback and deserves so much more than a team that was eliminated from bowl season on November 11th.

When Missouri Has the Ball

Missouri’s Offense vs. Arkansas’ Defense

The main thing to keep in mind about Arkansas’ defense is that they are either giving up a big play or creating a big play with hardly anything other than that occurring. They’re great at generating pressure and sacks but also rank in the 90s in explosive play rate and are one of the worst defenses in standard down success rates. Their one strength is passing downs - which plays right into the pressure and sack generation strengths - but, otherwise, are completely movable. Mizzou’s offense should feast.

Stay on target

FLorida v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

If Arkansas’ defense excels at passing downs...stay out of passing downs! Mizzou is one of the best at converting passing downs, mind you, but the Razorbacks are so bad at standard downs defense that it would be alarming if the Tigers were forced into passing situations all game. Let’s set the goal of at least a 45% success rate on standard downs.

Keep Brady Upright

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Florida at Missouri

Landon Jackson and Trajan Jeffcoat have combined for 35 pressures and 9 sacks on the year and are going to be sent over and over to try and disrupt the play as quickly as possible. The offensive line is going to need to nullify their efforts and keep Brady clean for the game to keep momentum on Mizzou’s side and keep on track with the chains. The goal is to allow less than 2 sacks for the game.

Finish your dang drives

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

Always, always, always. The inability to close with a touchdown left the Florida game much closer than any of us would prefer. I’d like to see Mizzou get at least 35 this game so let’s say 7 scoring opportunities and at least 5 points per scoring opportunity.

When Arkansas Has the Ball

Missouri’s Defense vs. Arkansas’ Offense

Look...this offense ranks 51st in the country and does very few things well. They’re 112th in overall success rate and 109th in explosive plays. They rank 104th in rushing and 110th in the passing. The stink on standard downs and passing downs alike. Their offensive line ranks 88th in penalties, 125th in pressures allowed, and 124th in blown blocks. And, despite all of that, in the 4th quarter, K.J. Jefferson still has the team in position to win the game. A 1-5 record in one-score games speaks to Jefferson’s ability to keep it close but not win it so this could be an incredibly infuriating game to watch if the season-long trend holds true.

Don’t let K.J. beat you

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Florida at Missouri

Look, I’m struggling to find some keys here. Arkansas’ offense is so bad I can’t comprehend how they’re able to do anything, let alone stay in so many close games. So all I can do is chalk it up to K.J. being awesome and a decent scoring offense in which case...knock the hell out of K.J. Jefferson! Pressures, sacks, tipped passes, limiting the damage he can do with his legs...all of that. Let’s create some arbitrary checkpoints and say the defense should finish with three sacks, four passes defensed, and limit Jefferson to under 60 non-sack yards rushing.

End their dang drives

FLorida v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

As hinted at above, Arkansas is decent at getting points once they get in scoring position, currently averaging 4.35 points per opportunity. Mizzou’s defense needs to shut the door and not let them hang around by maximizing whatever opportunities they get. The goal should be to limit them to less than 5 opportunities and 4 points per opportunity.

Conclusion

A long time ago in the faraway land of 2016, a linebacker for a really bad 3-win football team told reporters that “AR-KAN-SAS” shouldn’t even get off the bus because, if they did, they would lose. It made the media rounds that week and the fans of that 7-win, 47th-ranked team laughed it off and wondered why this mediocre player on a bad team was talking trash. The thing is, that team did get off the bus and did play the game and did lose to the 70th-best team in the country, 24-20.

Now, I’m not aware of any players from the 53rd-best team in the country with a 4-7 record talking to the media about the Top 10 ranked Tigers are guaranteed to lose on Friday. But the point remains: college football gets weird in November, especially in rivalry games, and it’s tough to tell what’s going to happen when the energy is up, force-rivalry-game or not.

Florida showed us that Mizzou could still lose any game, and maybe that was for the best. It gives Eli ammo for the week to force his players to stay focused and hungry to prove themselves even though they managed to win. Yes, Arkansas has nothing to play for; no, they’re not particularly talented; but yes, it is a rivalry game on the road and weird things happen in rivalry games.

Mizzou needs to be smart, play their game, and realize that this game can add another valuable trophy to the case and cement the ‘23 season as one of the best seasons of all time.