HOGS vs. Missouri in-depth preview
FAYETTEVILLE - Forget about calling this the “Battle Line Rivalry.”
“Roots” seems more apt for the Arkansas vs. Missouri regular-season finale Friday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. CBS plans to televise the game at 2:30 p.m.
For starters, Mizzou grad, former assistant coach and 2016-2019 head coach Barry Odom is completing his second season as defensive coordinator for Arkansas. Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman coached Missouri’s offensive line in 2000, some 13 years before coaching Arkansas’ offensive line from 2013-2015 and 20 years before becoming Arkansas’ head coach.
Eliah Drinkwitz, of Alma, replaced Odom two years ago as Mizzou’s head coach.
When at Mizzou, Odom recruited players Arkansas ignored, and those players have tormented the Razorbacks the past three years of the Tigers’ five-game winning streak vs. Arkansas. They include receiver Barrett Banister, the grandson of retired UA player/assistant coach/recruiting coordinator/Razorback Foundation President and Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee icon Harold Horton, and defensive tackle Akial Byers who won a state championship at Fayetteville High School.
The Hogs have paid dearly for those Bret Bielema era mistakes. Particularly with Byers recovering a fumble for Mizzou’s third touchdown in a 38-0 slaughter of the Hogs in 2018, and Banister making 14 catches the past three years, including an 18-yarder last season on the winning drive of Mizzou's 50-48 triumph.
Both Banister and Byers take this game personally.
“I think whenever somebody says that they don’t want you and they don’t think you’re good enough, whether they inherently meant that or not …,” Banister said, “it puts a chip on my shoulder. It’s been motivation for me throughout my college career.”
Las Vegas oddsmakers may have enhanced that chip by making Arkansas a 14-point favorite.
Arkansas has a couple of motivated Mizzou-related starting defensive linemen on its side Friday. Tre Williams, first transferring to Houston and then to Arkansas, and Markell Utsey, after last year under Drinkwitz following three years under Odom, reunited as Hogs in Fayetteville.
Mizzou defensive line coach Alfred Davis is a UA grad and former Razorbacks defensive lineman. Arkansas linebackers coach Michael Scherer played and coached for Odom at Mizzou, and cornerbacks coach Sam Carter accompanied Odom from Columbia, Mo., to Fayetteville.
Seems it has all the makings of a family feud, and it should be a fierce football game similar to last year’s 50-48 track meet in Columbia.
Both Pittman’s No. 25 Hogs (7-4, 3-4 in the SEC West) and Drinkwitz’s Tigers (6-5, 3-4 in the SEC East) try to better their bowl picture.
Mizzou’s bowl picture appeared non-existent when its defense leaked 173 points in four games, three of them losses to Boston College, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
However, the Mizzou defense has stiffened. The Tigers have won SEC games over Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida with the defense performing well. Defensive tackle Trajan Jeffcoat was named this week as SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his performances against Florida.
Mizzou place-kicker Harrison Mevis earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for kicking three field goals in the 24-23 overtime victory over Florida just as Arkansas kicker Cam Little did in the 16-13 overtime victory at LSU.
Mezzo quarterback Connor Bazelak, who beat Arkansas last year, is back with the SEC’s leading rusher, Tyler Badie (1,385 rushing yards, team-high 53 catches).
Arkansas, which lost 42-35 last week at then-No. 2 Alabama, seeks an Odom-inspired defensive rebound.
A year ago, Arkansas sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson put up 306 all-purpose yards and three TD passes at Mizzou in his lone 2020 start. Junior receiver Treylon Burks caught 10 balls for 206 yards and a TD.
Against the Crimson Tide, Jefferson completed 22 of 30 passes for 326 yards and three TDs without an interception. Burks hauled in eight passes for 179 yards and two TDs.
Arkansas’ improved offensive line is one of 13 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, which honors the nation’s best offensive line. First-year UA offensive line coach Cody Kennedy is among 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award honoring the nation’s top assistant coach.