Much is on the line when Missouri visits Arkansas in the regular-season finale for both teams Friday.
Missouri, coming off an emotional loss to Tennessee in what was coach Gary Pinkel’s final home game, is seeking bowl eligibility. Arkansas, which had won four in a row and was one of the hottest teams in the nation, is coming off a 51-50 loss at the hands of Mississippi State.
With the postseason on the line for one of these SEC powers, there’s much to be thankful for when the Tigers visit the Razorbacks.
Here’s what else you need to know about Friday’s SEC tilt:
Missouri Tigers (5-6, 1-6) @ Arkansas Razorbacks (6-5, 4-3)
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 27, 2:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Weather: 51 degrees, 100 percent of chain, 10 mph winds (Weather.com)
Line: Arkansas -14
Series: Missouri leads 4-2
By the numbers
11 — With a victory, Missouri would become bowl eligible for the 11th time in 15 seasons under Pinkel. A bowl would extend, for one more game, the coaching career of Pinkel, who has led the Tigers to bowl games each of the last three years. Interestingly enough, Missouri has faced off against Arkansas twice in bowl games during Pinkel’s tenure at the university. Missouri lost to Arkansas in the 2003 Independence Bowl, 27-14, but beat the Razorbacks, 38-7, in the 2008 Cotton Bowl.
21 — Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry is coming off a seven-reception performance in which he amassed a career-high 129 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Henry has now caught a pass in 21 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the SEC and fourth-longest among tight ends in the FBS. The junior leads the SEC in every statistical category among tight ends, including receptions, yardage, first downs and 100-yard games. He also leads the nation in 100-yard games (2), receiving yards (619) and first downs (30) at the position. Henry has yet to drop a pass this season.
1 — Arkansas and Missouri have met six teams over the years, but Friday’s contest will be the first game played in Fayetteville, Ark. Only once has the game been played in the state of Arkansas — back in Little Rock, Ark. in 1963. The average margin of victory in the six meetings has been 10.7 points, which is the second-closest margin of victory for any SEC team in an all-time series with Missouri.
Storylines to watch:
Will this be Pinkel’s final game at Mizzou?
A Missouri loss would likely end the storied career of Pinkel, who announced earlier this month that his 15th season at the university will be his last. Pinkel is undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma as his Tigers are one win shy of ensuring bowl eligibility. A victory over Arkansas would make the Tigers bowl eligible for a fourth consecutive year. If enough FBS teams do not reach six wins, there could be spots available to 5-win teams. Whether or not Missouri would receive a bowl invite in that scenario is unknown. Currently, Pinkel is the 19th winningest college football coach in history and ranks second among active coaches with 191 career wins.
Can Arkansas’ offensive tear continue?
Arkansas has scored 50 or more points in four of its last five games, though one was a 51-50 loss to Mississippi State last weekend. The Razorbacks’ four 50-point games are the most in any season in program history. The team had registered three 50-point games in 1910, 1916 and, most recently, 2007. Over the last five games, Arkansas has scored 251 points, which is also a single-season record at the university. For context, Bret Bielema’s team scored 248 points total in his first season. The Razorbacks are averaging 50.2 points per game over their last five, which is nearly 15 more points than any other SEC team in that span.
Matchup to watch: Alex Collins vs. the Missouri rush defense
Arkansas’ junior running back Collins is enjoying a career season. He is tied for the SEC lead with eight 100-yard games, and as a team, the Razorbacks have eclipsed 200 yards on the ground in five of their seven SEC contests this season. Collins leads Arkansas with 1,262 rushing yards and 14 trips to the end zone. He’s only the third player in SEC history to begin his career with three consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns along with another former Razorbacks great Darren McFadden and UGA legend Herschel Walker. His next task comes in the form of a Missouri defense that has held opposing rushing attacks to 125.9 yards per game, which is the fourth-best mark among SEC defenses. However, the Missouri defense allowed a season-high 248 yards rushing to Tennessee last Saturday and has allowed opponents to rack up 100 yards or more in all seven SEC games this season.
Prediction: Arkansas 45, Missouri 18
As Arkansas’ track record will dictate, the Razorbacks will score and score often, and there is no indication that Missouri’s defense will have a way to slow down Brandon Allen and Co. at home. However, as potent as the Razorbacks offense has been, their defense has had its own share of issues. Perhaps that could give a break to the Missouri offense, which has scored more than 14 points once in the past six games. The Tigers have struggled to score points, particularly in SEC play. The 24 points they posted against South Carolina on Oct. 3 was their highest scoring output against an SEC team this season. While this game should invoke a lot of emotion among the Missouri players, it seems like it will be a bit of a mismatch going after a red-hot Arkansas team that’s made a lot of noise the tail end of the season.