Arkansas’ game with Missouri has been played the day after Thanksgiving for so long fans came to automatically assume it’s always scheduled that way.
It is set every year for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, then moved to Friday in the summer. When LSU was played at the end of the year it was handled the same way.
This year fans had hoped to see the Hogs and Tigers play in Kansas City in Arrowhead Stadium. Then covid got in the way and now everybody is glad the game is going to be played anywhere.
And it’s essentially a pick ’em game. Oh, Missouri is a consensus 2.5-point favorite among the sports books. Considering the home team gets three points just for being at home that makes it about even.
The bigger story line for this game is it’s a contest between two of the top coach of the year candidates in the Hogs’ Sam Pittman and the Tigers’ Eli Drinkwitz, who is from Arkansas.
All of that is just noise around the main issue, which is what happens at 11 a.m. when this game gets under way.
Just about everything is equal in this game and the Hogs certainly have tilted the law of averages in their favor on getting critical calls from officials. It makes about as much sense as anything else these days considering we don’t know until kickoff who’s available and who is out (for whatever reason).
Handicapping games this season is mostly by guess and by golly, which is pretty much what we’ve got this week.
Missouri is 4-1 in its last five games, causing folks to point at that as evidence they have things headed in the right direction. That’s what Drinkwitz is hoping.
Those wins have come over Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Kentucky and LSU wrapped around a 41-17 loss to Florida that wasn’t nearly as competitive as the final score sounds.
On the other hand, Arkansas is 2-3 in the last five games with wins over Tennessee and Ole Miss and losses to Texas A&M, Florida and LSU.
With two games left in the regular season it’s time for Kendal Briles’ offense to figure out how to have all the pieces come together at the same time. Consistency has been the problem.
We’ve seen flashes of how good it can be. The third quarter of the Tennessee game may have been the most consistency we’ve seen in it.
A lot of that has been due to an offensive line that didn’t have a lot of stars to begin with and it’s been pretty much a series of moving pieces between injuries and covid.
It’s about time for it to come together.
Defensively, the Hogs have to figure out a way to get off the field on third down which will likely mean stopping Tigers running back Larry Rountree, who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Hogs defensive coordinator Barry Odom recruited him to Missouri and coached him for three years. He knows how good he is … and it won’t be surprising if anyone has an insight on how to slow him down it will be Odom.
That’s the key and the hunch here is Odom has some know-how tucked away that will make the difference.
Arkansas 27, Missouri 23
With a two-game lead, it may be the shakiest lead this late in the season I’ve ever had. Pete Morgan has hope he can catch up. The problem is hope ain’t a good plan.
Texas A&M (-5.5) at Auburn
The Aggies still have a shot at landing in the College Football Playoff. Don’t giggle. They are sitting at No. 5 and if the committee likes their resume better than Ohio State they could slip in. Auburn, on the other hand, has been all over the place this season, but will be at least .500 this year with the assistance of the league’s replay officials. That won’t make a difference this week. Texas A&M 31, Auburn 14
Florida (-17.5) at Tennessee
This won’t even be close. Maybe the biggest question is where Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt can have a good enough showing to keep the seat he’s sitting on from throwing up flames. That’s a question for Phillip Fulmer and nobody knows which way he’ll come down, but it won’t affect this game. Florida 63, Tennessee 14
South Carolina at Kentucky (-11.5)
The Gamecocks are just playing out the schedule, which is what the Wildcats are doing, too, except Mark Stoops still has a job. South Carolina doesn’t have a coach right now. Neither team is very good this season but they both will play a complete 10-game schedule, which really is a win for this season. Kentucky 35, South Carolina 10
Alabama (-29) at LSU
You would be hard-pressed to find a defending national champion being over a four-touchdown underdog at home just a year after winning the title, but that’s where the Tigers find themselves. A win in this one and the Crimson Tide can take the third and fourth team to Arkansas the next week and their playoff spot rests squarely on the SEC Championship game. Alabama 56, LSU 7