FAYETTEVILLE – This week we conclude our look at a team-by-team opponent analysis of the Arkansas football schedule.

FAYETTEVILLE – This week we conclude our look at a team-by-team opponent analysis of the Arkansas football schedule.


You can probably count on one hand how many things are intimidating about the Missouri football program. The stadium is a concrete jungle. The players, save a couple every now and again, aren’t quite the caliber as at most of the rest of the Southeastern Conference. The system is ordinary.


Yet in each of their first two years in the SEC, there have been the Tigers, in the conference title game. Against everyone’s predictions.


It’ll largely be the same this year. And like last year, it may be up to Arkansas to keep Missouri out of the championship. The Tigers had to beat Arkansas in the regular season finale last year to make it and did so only after a tie-breaking touchdown with about four minutes left and an Arkansas turnover soon thereafter.


The game was 21-14 and hardly exciting – typical Missouri. But it was also a good start to the new Battle Line rivalry. The schools are similar in recent tradition and the pieces are in place for a more competitive, if less thrilling, rivalry than the one Arkansas had with LSU.


This game could very well lift either team into the title game. That’s a pretty good rivalry.


Missouri Tigers


Southeastern Conference


Last Year: 11-3 (7-1), beat Minnesota in Citrus Bowl


Plays Arkansas: November 21 at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium in Fayetteville


By the Numbers


Scoring Offense: 27.8 points per game (73rd in FBS, 12 in SEC)


Rushing Offense: 177.86 yards per game (55th, 8th)


Passing Offense: 189.1 yards per game (101st, 10th)


Scoring Defense: 21.1 points per game (19th, t-6th)


Rushing Defense: 133.21 yards per game (26th, 4th)


Passing Defense: 212.7 yards per game (40th, 6th)


Offense:


For everything the offense lacks in explosiveness, it makes up for with timing. Russell Hansbrough, the returning starter at running back, is by far the team’s most dynamic skill player. He ran for 10 touchdowns and nearly 1,100 yards last season for a team that finished 98th in FBS in total offense. He’ll be helped if quarterback Maty Mauk can improve. Mauk is much like Arkansas’ Brandon Allen. They’re both more game managers than playmakers. Missouri hasn’t needed Mauk to make big plays to be successful, though it’s more likely it will need him to do so this year with the team’s four leading receivers gone.


Defense:


Defense is how Missouri won games last year. The Tigers were top 20 in turnover margin and top 40 in opponents 3rd down-conversion rate. New defensive coordinator Barry Odom inherits a secondary that was also top 40 in the country last year and returns five of its top six, practically. Linebackers Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer are tackling machines and Brothers can chip in with the big play now and again. Shane Ray and Marcus Golden are gone off the edges and the Tigers pass rush won’t likely duplicate it’s top 10 (42 sacks) performance of last year, but the defense is still strong and, unsurprisingly, underrated.