The fifth annual Battle Line Rivalry showdown kicks off on Friday in Columbia pitting bordering neighbors, the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-9, 0-7 SEC) and Missouri Tigers (7-4, 3-4), against one another in a cross-SEC matchup.
The Razorbacks hobble onto Faurot Field after a humbling 52-6 road loss to Mississippi State last week. For one quarter the game was tight, but the Bulldogs applied force on the Hogs on both sides of the ball using a 21-point third quarter to break the game wide-open squashing the will of the Razorbacks in the process. Arkansas’ defense allowed 475 yards of total offense seeing quarterback Nick Fitzgerald pass for four touchdowns with one running score. The offense was anemic against MSU, other than the efforts of running back Rakeem Boyd’s 14-carry, 84-yard performance.
Missouri rolls into the game on a three-game SEC winning streak taking down Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee in order. In what might be the Tigers’ most impressive win of the season, they upended the Volunteers 50-17 behind the arm of Drew Lock and rushing efforts of Larry Roundtree. The defense looked like the old Missouri squads locking down the Vols offense for 255 yards, just 82 on the ground.
Arkansas at Missouri
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 23 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Missouri -23
Three Things to Watch
1. Arkansas’ pass defense
What was bad for Arkansas just got worse with the suspension of starting defensive backs Ryan Pulley and Kamren Curl. The two players were spotted before the Mississippi State game fraternizing with members of the Bulldogs’ dance squad leading to the one-game dismissal. Pulley leads the Hogs with three interceptions and Curl is fourth on the squad with 53 tackles. Additionally, defensive back Jordon Curtis is expected to miss the game (unspecified injury) and defensive tackle Briston Guidry (knee) is doubtful for the game.
The Razorbacks are among the bottom-tier FBS programs in pass defense, ranked 95th out of 129 teams, giving way to 247 yards per game. Mizzou senior quarterback Lock is among the best in the nation completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,904 yards with 23 touchdowns tossed.
2. Missouri’s pass defense
If Arkansas has a shot at earning its first SEC victory of the season under new head coach Chad Morris, exploiting Missouri’s secondary is the way to go. The Tigers' prolific offense masks the defenses’ deficiencies against the pass, second worse in the SEC to Ole Miss allowing 267 yards a game.
Hogs’ junior quarterback Ty Storey has been inconsistent throughout the season and hindered by a leaking line and dropped passes. Statistically, the Hogs are a bottom-tier passing offense netting 198 yards per game, ranked 97th nationally.
3. Rakeem Boyd vs. Missouri’s run defense
The bright spot for the Hogs' offense all season has been sophomore tailback Rakeem Boyd. Boyd has three 100-yard rushing games, all against SEC competition, tallying 729 yards with two scores. Only three times this season has Morris committed more than 15 carries to his lead back. If the Hogs wish to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard, sustained drives behind a ground game is needed.
Missouri has been strong against the run all season allowing over 200-yards just twice, Memphis (200) and Vanderbilt (216). Junior linebacker Cale Garrett has been a thumper in the box for Mizzou with 92 stops on the year including five tackles for a loss. As a unit, the defense is limiting opposing rushing attacks to 129 yards on average.
Missouri leads the all-time series 6-3, dating back to the first meeting in 1906, and has added to the ownership as SEC conference foes with a 3-1 record. The Tigers have ekeed out the last two wins against Arkansas by a total of seven points, but have a chance to get retribution for the 25-point 2015 Arkansas blowout win.
Prediction: Missouri 48, Arkansas 17
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.
(Top photo courtesy of www.arkansasrazorbacks.com)