Missouri and Arkansas first met on the football field in 1906, but this century-old rivalry between neighboring states did not get an official title, trophy and an annual date of Thanksgiving Friday until 2014. Missouri leads the all-time series 6-3 and has won three of four meetings as SEC rivals, looking to claim the Battle Line Trophy for the third straight year when the two teams meet in Columbia on a special Friday edition of the SEC on CBS.
The game will be the final home game for a group of Missouri seniors that have achieved bowl eligibility for the second time in three years since Barry Odom was named head coach. That means it's the last home game for Terry Beckner and a veteran group of defensive lineman, and the last chance for the home fans to see Drew Lock light it up in Memorial Stadium.
Arkansas: This is the final game of Chad Morris' first season as Arkansas' head coach, and to hear him tell it, this is a gut-check moment following a 52-6 loss to Mississippi State. Morris pointed to inattention to details and lack of execution in key moments, conceding that the Razorbacks "competed well for two and a half quarters" before allowing a 17-6 game to balloon into 38-6 in just a few short minutes. When the Battle Line Trophy is all this team has to play for, the game becomes a spotlight into the current state of the program and what to expect moving forward.
If Arkansas is going to offer an encouraging response from that blowout loss in this game, it's got to start with getting off the field on third down. Missouri has been one of the best teams in the SEC at third down conversion rate on offense (trailing only Alabama and Georgia), and the key to getting the win is limiting the number of times the white-hot Lock has the ball in his hands.
Missouri: This Senior Day showcase comes as Drew Lock has been playing some of the best football of his career. Lock's prolific 2017 season powered his run up the SEC record books, where he now sits second in league history in career passing yards and third in passing touchdowns, but there's been a recent uptick in accuracy and efficiency that has been a game changer for the program. Over the last three games (all wins against SEC East opponents), Lock has completed 67-of-95 passes (71 percent) for 760 yards and seven touchdowns with only two interceptions. That 71 percent completion rate is the best three-game span in SEC play over his four-year career.
Lock has benefited from the return of elite wide receiver Emanuel Hall (arguably one of the most valuable players in the conference) and continued stellar play by the Tigers defensive line, and this group now has a chance to reach new heights in program history. A victory against Arkansas on Friday would give Missouri eight regular season wins for the first time since 2014 and just the 12th time in the last 60 years.
Game prediction, picks
Morris was so visibly frustrated with Arkansas' performance against Mississippi State I have to imagine this was a tough week of practice. Young players should be looking to make an impression on the staff and Missouri still has a bowl game to worry about. I think the Hogs are feisty enough to get the cover. Pick: Arkansas +22.5
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