The 2016 version of the Battle Line Rivalry may not have SEC title implications but there are enough interesting story lines to keep even the average college football fan hooked. When the Arkansas Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4 SEC) face off against the Missouri Tigers (3-8, 1-6) expect a lot of offense and big numbers on the scoreboard.
Missouri is not getting Arkansas at the best time. The Razorbacks are coming off a tour de force offensive performance against Mississippi State, racking up 661 yards, the fourth-highest single-game output in school history. Arkansas mixed it up between sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams and junior quarterback Austin Allen and scored on nine of 11 drives en route to a 58-42 road win over the Bulldogs.
The Tigers limp into this game on the heels of a 63-37 loss to Tennessee in Knoxville. Mizzou gave its all for three quarters, but gave up a total of 42 points in the second half, 28 of those coming in the fourth quarter alone. The silver lining for Tigers was a school-record 740 yards against the Volunteers.
Arkansas at Missouri
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 25 at 2:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Arkansas -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Damarea Crockett Suspended
Following a record-setting 225-yard performance against Tennessee, Crockett also is now the record holder at Missouri for rushing yards by a freshman with 1,062. The fourth-leading rusher in the SEC, Crockett was really looking forward to this game considering the Little Rock native was never offered by Arkansas coming out of high school.
Unfortunately, Crockett will have to wait for his shot against the Razorbacks as he has been suspended by head coach Barry Odom for this game following his arrest Sunday morning on suspicion of marijuana possession. Junior Ish Witter and sophomore Nate Strong will handle the carries against Arkansas in Crckett’s absence. Witter ran for a career-best 163 yards last week against the Volunteers.
2. Can Missouri Stop Rawleigh Williams?
Williams, like Crockett, also enters this game after putting together his best effort in an Arkansas uniform. Against Mississippi State, Williams piled up 205 yards on just 16 carries (12.8 ypc) and scored four times. Most of the damage came in the first half (191 yards), as Williams now leads the SEC and is top 20 in the nation in rushing with 1,209 yards, while averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
The Razorbacks have been tinkering with their offensive line all season, but the addition of Johnny Gibson at right guard has made the difference during this second half surge. The sophomore has brought both size (6-4, 344) and a presence up front to help provide more power and push for the ground game that was missing at times early in the season.
3. Which Quarterback Can Lead His Team to Victory?
Arkansas’ Austin Allen bounced back from a bad game against LSU for a 300-yard performance against Mississippi State. Allen connected on 18 of 25 pass attempts and tossed two more touchdowns to bring his season total to 22. Missouri’s Drew Lock went 21-for-43 for 320 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the loss to Tennessee. The Tigers’ sophomore signal-caller leads the SEC in passing yards (3,131), and is tied with Allen for second in touchdown passes. Both have thrown 10 interceptions in 11 games.
The difference between the two is accuracy. Allen is fourth in the conference with a completion rate of 61.3 percent. Lock has by far attempted the most passes (408 compared to 331 for Allen), but he’s only completed 54.2 percent of his attempts.
Neither team is a titan on defense, but Arkansas might be just a tad bit better. The Razorbacks are 10th in the SEC and 85th in the FBS in total defense at 431.4 yards per game allowed. Missouri is last in the conference and near the bottom of the national rankings (No. 116 out of 128) at 477.5 yards per game. Arkansas also is credited with one of the nation’s toughest schedules, ranking ninth in opponents’ strength; whereas Missouri’s slate checks in considerably lower (No. 55).
The two defenses are fairly close from a statistical standpoint in how each unit has fared against the pass, which could be a key considering the success both Austin Allen and Drew Lock have had throwing the ball for their respective teams. Neither defense has done a great job against the run, but the Razorbacks have fared better statistically, at least in terms of rushing yards allowed (216.5 ypg vs. 239.9 ypg). However, Arkansas is near the bottom of the FBS in terms of rushing touchdowns allowed (33, tied for 125th), while Missouri has not been as generous (26, tied for 101st).
The Razorbacks are looking to improve to .500 in SEC play and improve their bowl positioning in the process. The Tigers have the opportunity to not only play spoiler as it relates to the Hogs’ postseason aspirations, but also end their season on a high note with a big win at home. Unfortunately, Arkansas has too much firepower for Missouri to match.
Prediction: Arkansas 48, Missouri 28
— 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. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.