Coach: Eliah Drinkwitz (16-18 in third season at Missouri and 28-19 in fourth season overall) 2021 Record: 6-7, 3-5 SEC 2021 Postseason Result: Lost 24-22 to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl Offense: Pro Tempo Defense: 4-2-5 Returning Lettermen: 42 (21 offense, 17 defense, 4 special teams) Returning Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense) Players to Watch: QB Brady Cook, WR Dominic Lovett, WR Luther Burden, RB Cody Schrader, OL Javon Foster, DB Jaylon Carlies, LB Ty’Ron Hopper, DB Joseph Charleston, DL Isaiah McGuire, DL DJ Coleman,K Harrison Mevis Series Record: Missouri leads 9-4 MISSOURI OVERVIEW The Tigers have had a roller-coaster season. One week Missouri will look as if it has taken a step forward, just to reverse course the next. Missouri began SEC play 0-3 but rattled off consecutive wins against Vanderbilt and South Carolina. The Tigers then took losses to Kentucky and Tennessee, and now sit at 2-5 entering the Battle Line Rivalry against Arkansas. The majority of Missouri’s troubles have come on offense, ranking near the bottom of the SEC in yardage and scoring. The Tigers’ defense has been able to keep them in games, but is on the heels of its worst outing of the season — 66 points and 724 yards at Tennessee. The previous high any conference team had scored against Missouri was 26 points by Georgia in Week 5. In SEC games, the Tigers have averaged 19.1 points and have allowed 25.4. Eliah Drinkwitz’s team needs a win against Arkansas to claim bowl eligibility and match last year’s conference record. TREND Since Missouri joined the SEC in 2014 the rivalry has been lopsided, with the Tigers winning six of the teams’ eight matchups. From 2016-20, five consecutive games in the series were won by Missouri. The Razorbacks have never won backto-back times against Missouri, but will have a shot to do so. Arkansas defeated the Tigers 34-17 last season at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It was the first time the Hogs had beaten the Missouri since 2015. With a win, Sam Pittman can become the first Razorback coach with two wins over Missouri. Bret Bielema was 1-4 against the Tigers and Chad Morris was 0-1. The only other Arkansas coaches with a win against Missouri are Houston Nutt (2003) and Glen Rose (1944). Drinkwitz, who grew up in Alma, is 1-1 against the Razorbacks. Prior to the Kentucky loss on Nov. 5, his contract was extended by Missouri for two seasons at $6 million per year. DID YOU KNOW? Arkansas has never beaten Missouri at Faurot Field. The Razorbacks are 0-5 all-time playing in Columbia, Mo., losing the games by a combined score of 148-86. Arkansas has been shut out twice in those games, most recently in 2018. The last time Arkansas played in Columbia was in 2020 — a thriller which Missouri won 50-48. A combined 42 points were scored in the fourth quarter of that game, and the Tigers erased a twotouchdown deficit to win. KJ Jefferson earned his first collegiate start that game in place of the injured Feleipe Franks. Jefferson passed for 274 yards and three touchdowns that day. MISSOURI KEY PLAYER On an offense that has had its fair share of struggles, receiver Dominic Lovett has been a bright spot for Missouri. In games the Tigers have won this year, Lovett has averaged 92 receiving yards. During the games the Tigers have lost, he’s been held to an average of 56. Entering the game against New Mexico State, Lovett was fourth in the SEC with 706 receiving yards and tied for third in receptions (49). He has the conference’s longest catch of the season — a 79-yard touchdown against Abilene Christian. He is on the Biletnikoff Award watch list. In each of Missouri’s first five games, Lovett led the team in receiving yards and became the first Tiger to do so in the modern era. Lovett was key to the Tigers’ 23-10 win over South Carolina with 10 receptions for 148 yards, including a long of 57. It was the most yards for a Missouri receiver since 2018. He has three games this year with 100-plus receiving yards (South Carolina, Auburn and Abilene Christian), each outing resulting in a Missouri win. His next-best performance game against Georgia, a game during which he has six catches for 84 yards. Entering Week 12, Pro Football Focus had Lovett with the SEC’s best offensive grade among receivers (83.0). His drop grade is high (92.2) showing that he is a reliable target when the ball his thrown his direction. The only receiver Arkansas has faced with a higher grade than him was Liberty’s Demario Douglas, who lit up the Hogs for 145 yards and a touchdown. At 5-10, Lovett primarily lines up in the slot for Missouri. When the Tigers’ offense has been at its best this year, Lovett has been highly involved. MISSOURI ON OFFENSE The only SEC teams that have struggled more than Missouri to generate yards are Texas A&M and Kentucky. The Tigers average 354 yards per game (204.6 passing and 149.4 rushing), a dip of 60 yards from 2021. It has been a struggle for the Tigers to put together scoring drives, sitting 12th in the conference with 23.2 points per game. The Tigers have won the time of possession battle against opponents (34:03 to 23:37), running the ball on 57.1% of plays. Missouri is led by quarterback Brady Cook, who entering the New Mexico State game had 2,012 yards passing with a 65% completion rate and 8 touchdowns. His yardage was tied with Kentucky’s Will Levis for seventh most in the SEC. Cook has 338 rushing yards, which is eighth most among quarterbacks in the conference. He has rushed for five touchdowns. A troublesome area for Cook has been decision making. He has thrown seven interceptions, which trails Levis and Spencer Rattler (South Carolina) for most in the conference. Turnovers have been an issue for Missouri, whose minus-6 turnover margin is 18th-worst nationally. The Tigers have fumbled the ball 10 times and have lost all 10. Back-up quarterback Jack Abraham has six pass attempts this year, and two have resulted in interceptions. Cook is one of three Tigers with 300-plus rushing yards entering the New Mexico State game. Joining him are senior running backs Cody Schrader (534) and Nathaniel Peat (399). Both backs average 4.4 yards per carry. Shrader has five touchdowns and is 17th in the SEC in rushing yards. Entering Week 12, Lovett led all Missouri receivers in yards (706), catches (49) and touchdowns (3). Luther Burden was rated the nation’s No. 5 overall recruit and top receiver in the 2022 class. The 5-star from Illinois is second on the team with 32 catches and third with 260 receiving yards. He had touchdown catches against Vanderbilt and Louisiana Tech. Barrett Banister, a fifth-year receiver from Fayetteville, has Missouri’s secondmost receiving yards (317) off 30 catches. Missouri has a veteran offensive line. Javon Foster has started every game at left tackle and Connor Tollison every game at center. Foster has the team’s highest pass blocking grade (82.0), according to PFF. Xavier Delgado has started all but one game at left guard. Connor Wood began the year at right guard but has started since the Georgia game at right tackle. The Tigers are 37% on third down this year, with only Texas A&M and Auburn having worse success among SEC teams. Missouri is 50% (6-12) on fourth-down tries. MISSOURI ON DEFENSE It has been defense that has kept Missouri in games this year. Missouri has the SEC’s fourth-best total defense (346.4 yards per game) and opponents have scored more than 26 points twice this year against the Tigers. While the unit was exploited by Tennessee’s nation-best offense, it has been solid for most of the year. The Tigers give up an average of 219.2 passing yards and 127.2 rushing yards. They have the fourthbest run defense in the SEC. The Tigers have been good at setting the tone early defensively. Five times this season, Missouri has held an opponent to under 120 yards of offense in the first half. However, the issue has been fourth-quarter defense for the Tigers. After Week 11, teams had outscored Missouri by a combined 87-50 in the final period. The 37-point differential is by far the team’s worst of any quarter. Missouri has been stout on third down this year. The defense has held opponents to a 31.5% success rate on the down, which is 19th best in the country. Defensive lineman Isaiah McGuire was sixth in the SEC with five sacks entering the New Mexico State game. He was named the conference’s defensive lineman of the week after the South Carolina game. Against the Gamecocks he had three tackles for a loss, including two sacks. He has the most tackles among Mizzou defensive linemen (33). McGuire and fellow lineman DJ Coleman lead the Tigers with two forced fumbles this season. Coleman’s 4.5 sacks rank second on the team. Defensive back Jaylon Carlies leads the Tigers with 60 total tackles and 48 solo stops. He had a career day against Auburn with 13 tackles (11 solo). He had an 11-tackle outing against Tennessee. Carlies also has two interceptions this year, which leads the team. Six Tigers have recorded an interception this season. In the team’s season opener against Lousiana Tech, safety Joseph Charleston had a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown. MISSOURI ON SPECIAL TEAMS While at times Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis has shown accuracy problems, the 5-11, 254-pound junior is never lacking in power. Mevis, on the Groza Award watch list, was a preseason SEC first-team selection. He entered the New Mexico State game with 17 field goals, tied for second most in the league. Mevis was 17 of 22 on his tries, with his 77.3% success rate ranking sixth in the conference. Of his five misses, four were from less than 40 yards. After Week 11, he was a perfect 5 of 5 from the 40-to-49-yard range, and 4 of 5 from 50 yards or beyond. In the near upset of Georgia, he drilled a 56-yarder which put the Tigers up by 10 early in the fourth quarter. Mevis has not missed an extra point this year. Punter Jack Stonehouse averages 42.2 yards per punt, just below the national average among FBS punters. His long was 68 yards against Auburn. Entering Week 12, freshman receiver Luther Burden had returned 10 punts for 149, averaging 14.9 yards per return. He had a 78-yard punt return touchdown against Abilene Christian. Kris Abrams-Draine has returned six kickoffs, averaging 16.5 yards per return, with a long of 23 yards. The Tigers rank first in the country, allowing just 13 yards per kick return off 10 returns. There have been touchbacks on 38 of the Missouri’s kickoffs. The punt defense has been another story, as teams average 16.1 yards per punt return, which is fifth-most nationally. Kansas State had a 76-yard punt return touchdown against the Tigers on Sept. 10. THE BOTTOM LINE The Razorbacks have a shot to keep the Battle Line Rivalry trophy in Fayetteville for two straight years, which is something that has never been done. The Hogs could sink Missouri’s bowl chances while bolstering their own. While the Tigers’ offense has not threatened many teams this year, the Razorbacks face a challenge against the Missouri defense. If Arkansas comes out flat offensively like it did in the losses to Liberty and LSU, the score may resemble Missouri’s grind-it-out 17-14 win against Vanderbilt. Teams that have had the most success against the Tigers have had fast starts on offense and put them away before the fourth quarter. Missouri has typically started games strong. The Tigers have outscored opponents by a total of 30 points in the first half of games. However, in the second half teams have outscored Missouri by 57. Slow starts have been too much to overcome at times for Arkansas, but Missouri has shown it allows opponents to claw back into games. If the Razorbacks can jump on the Tigers early — much like Kansas State did in Week 2 — Missouri might not have the offensive firepower to get back into the game.